Senator Ron Wyden on Tuesday called for a national privacy law that would include “tough regulations” on Facebook's ability to harvest data about its users.
“It is past time for a federal data privacy law,” the Oregon Democrat said at an online video conference during which advocacy groups petitioned for new legislation.
“As we start the new year, my own view is the first order of business in stopping Facebook is putting tough regulations on how Mark Zuckerberg's company can collect, share and use our data -- because that's the fuel that runs Facebook, that's the fuel that earns him billions, that's the fuel that harms our democracy,” he said.
Wyden specifically touted his Mind Your Own Business Act, which he first proposed in the fall of 2019 and reintroduced last April.
While Tuesday's event focused largely on Facebook, Wyden's proposed legislation would apply more broadly.
Among other provisions, the measure would create a national “do not track” regime that would give consumers the right to prevent large tech companies and data brokers from disclosing personal data to ad-tech companies.
That bill would also allow the FTC to fine violators up to 4% of their annual revenue, and calls for criminal sanctions for senior executives who knowingly lie to the agency.
At present, the FTC generally lacks the ability to fine companies that violate users' privacy, unless the companies were already subject to a consent decree or court order.
At Tuesday's event, which occurred several days before the anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, advocacy groups argued that there was a connection between Facebook's data collection, its algorithms that recommend content, and the insurrection.
“Facebook’s algorithmic manipulation is a threat to our democracy and election integrity because it intensifies the far-right extremism that led to the attack on the Capitol. In order to #StopFacebook, lawmakers must focus on cutting off the fuel supply for Facebook’s data weapon by passing a federal data privacy law,” the group Fight for the Future stated Tuesday.
For his part, Wyden said that January 6 “put a magnifying glass on how Facebook is willing to coddle white nationalists, scammers and anti-Democratic right-wing figures for Mark Zuckerberg's personal profit.”