Sen. Cantwell Says Privacy Bill Could Protect Against AI Harms

Senator Maria Cantwell said Monday that a federal privacy bill she introduced could help protect people from discrimination fueled by artificial intelligence.

Speaking at Washington state's Future of AI forum, which she hosted, Cantwell (D-Washington) touted opportunities created by artificial intelligence, but also spoke of the need for “guardrails” for potential pitfalls.

Cantwell, who heads the Senate Commerce Committee, noted several areas of concern posed by artificial intelligence, including that it “can be used in discriminatory ways that we don't want to be allowed,” such as preventing people from getting jobs or loans.

“That's why I have introduced privacy legislation that would protect people from that kind of discrimination,” Cantwell said.



Although she did not offer details during the forum, a spokesperson told MediaPost that Cantwell was referring to the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act, which she introduced in 2019 and reintroduced in 2021.

That bill appeared to require companies to obtain consumers' opt-in consent before serving them with behaviorally targeted ads.

Other provisions would have prohibited companies from serving ads for housing, employment, credit or education based on people's actual or perceived race, religion, sex or other factors that would violate civil rights laws.

The proposed Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act also would have imposed new requirements on companies that use algorithms to facilitate ads for housing, education, jobs or credit.

Last year, Cantwell did not support the bipartisan privacy American Data Privacy and Protection Act, which would have effectively outlawed a common form of online behavioral targeting.

That measure, which advanced in the House, would have prohibited companies from collecting or processing data about individuals' online activity across sites and over time. 

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