Privacy Watchdogs Urge Congress To Pass Data Broker Opt-Out Bill

Advocacy groups are urging federal lawmakers to pass a bill aimed to enable people to easily request the removal of personal information that was collected by data brokers.

The Data Elimination and Limiting Extensive Tracking and Exchange (DELETE) Act (HR 4311), introduced last year by Rep. Lori Trahan, would require the Federal Trade Commission to establish a mechanism for consumers to request that their data be deleted. That request would then be sent to all registered data brokers.

Currently, people who want to remove their information from data brokers' lists can opt out company-by-company.

“Just as you gave us a tool to protect ourselves by directing the FTC to create the National Do Not Call Registry to combat telemarketers and robocalls, we ask you now to do the same for data brokers with a vigorous DELETE Act that will permanently get people’s private personal information off the internet,” organizations including Fight for the Future, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, Accountable Tech and Consumer Federation of America say in a letter to lawmakers.



The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce is expected to consider the DELETE Act and other bills relating to online privacy at a hearing on Wednesday.

The DELETE Act generally defines a data broker as a company that collects personal information from customers it doesn't have a direct relationship with, and uses that data on behalf of a third party, or sells the data to a third party. (The definition has several exclusions, including for companies that engage in fraud prevention, as well as companies acting as consumer reporting agencies.)

The bill's definition of personal information includes web browsing history, device identifiers, persistent identifiers and inferences that can be used to create profiles.

“The vast majority of people do not want sensitive personal information that can be used to harm and harass them publicly listed and sold across the internet,” the organizations write. “Yet, there are over 500 data broker websites to opt-out from, and if you opt out once, data brokers will just put your information up again when they find it elsewhere.”

Last year, California lawmakers passed a bill that will require all data brokers in the state to honor a delete request made through a single mechanism, to be created by the California Privacy Protection Agency. The provision regarding the opt-out mechanism is slated to take effect in 2026.

The ad industry opposed that law, arguing it would “remove data necessary for modern marketing and advertising.”

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