Categories: Legal

Senators Introduce Sweeping Online Privacy Legislation

A group of key Senate Democrats on Tuesday (Nov. 26) unveiled a far-reaching online privacy bill that levies tough new punishments for tech giants that mishandle users’ personal data.

The Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (COPRA) would protect online users’ right to privacy and prohibit companies from concealing what is done with users’ personal information. The bill was introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and sponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ed Markey (D-MA). All are members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“In the growing online world, consumers deserve two things: privacy rights and a strong law to enforce them,” ranking committee member Cantwell said in the announcement. “They should be like your Miranda rights – clear as a bell as to what they are and what constitutes a violation.”

Under the proposed law, users would have the right to see and delete any personal information that companies have accrued about them. Strict standards of collecting consumer data would also be established, and users could prevent their information from being accessed by third-party companies without their permission.

Tech firms like Google and Facebook would also be required to explain in clear terms what is being done with users’ data. Failing to adhere to the law would trigger fines and possible litigation. COPRA would also give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) an expanded ability to go after tech companies for privacy violations and would create a new bureau to handle digital privacy enforcement.

“The legislation released today reflects where the Democrats want to go,” said Roger Wicker, the commerce committee chairperson. “But any privacy bill will need bipartisan support to become law.”

This legislation is not the first privacy bill to be floated in Congress. The Online Privacy Act, sponsored by Silicon Valley Democrats Rep. Anna Eshoo and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, would lead to the creation of the Digital Privacy Agency (DPA), a federal agency that would issue regulations and enforce imposed privacy rules. The proposed legislation is stronger than the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which is one of the toughest in the country.

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