Florida Senate Passes Privacy Bill

Florida's Senate on Thursday voted 29-11 in favor a privacy bill that would require companies to allow consumers to opt out of the sale or sharing of certain data about themselves, including some information used for ad targeting.

The House previously passed a version of the bill by a vote of 118-1, but that measure differs from the one passed by the Senate.

If lawmakers can reconcile the versions by Friday, April 30, the measure will go to Gov. Ron DeSantis for signature.

When the bill was introduced in February, the Republican governor cheered it as “another important step to safeguard Floridians against the often-unchecked power of 'Big Tech.'” 

The most significant disagreement between the House and Senate centers on whether consumers should be able to bring private lawsuits over violations. The House bill (HB 969) would allow for those lawsuits, but the Senate bill (SB 1734) would not.

Watchdogs argue that consumers should be able to enforce privacy rights by taking violators to court.

“A privacy law only works if it can be enforced,” Consumer Federation of America's director of consumer protection and privacy Susan Grant, and Electronic Privacy Information Center deputy director Caitriona Fitzgerald wrote last week in the Tallahassee Democrat. “While government enforcement is essential, today’s scope of data collection is simply too vast for a state’s Attorney General alone to regulate.”

But the major ad industry organizations argue that empowering individuals to sue will result in lawsuits over trivial issues.

“Allowing private actions would flood Florida’s courts with frivolous lawsuits driven by opportunistic trial lawyers searching for technical violations, rather than focusing on actual consumer harm,” the Association of National Advertisers, American Association of Advertising Agencies, Interactive Advertising Bureau, Network Advertising Initiative and American Advertising Federation said last month in letters to Florida lawmakers.

Business and advertising groups have raised other arguments against the proposed law.

The Silicon Valley lobbying group Internet Association -- which counts Google, Facebook and Amazon among its members -- argued last week that the bill was moving too quickly.

“SB 1734 was only filed on February 25, 2021, giving stakeholders little time for feedback on the legislation,” the organization stated. “A bill dealing with the complexities around data privacy needs input and consideration from every affected party.”

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