Two Democrats have introduced a new bill that would create a federal agency tasked solely with regulating the tech industry.
If passed, the Online Privacy Act, sponsored by U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren, both of California, would lead to the creation of the Digital Privacy Agency (DPA), a federal agency that would issue regulations and enforce imposed privacy rules. The agency would have 1,600 officials, comparable to the Federal Communications Commission.
The legislation is in response to privacy scandals such as the one involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Since then, lawmakers have been working to craft bills to protect consumer data, with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) being one of the toughest in the country.
“This bill is stronger than the California law,” Eshoo said, according to The Verge. “This would be the standard for the United States and it would provide the kind of uniformity that I think everyone is looking for without preemption because it is the broadest bill.”
Much like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Online Privacy Act would allow users to access, correct, delete and transfer their data, as well as give companies consent to use their data in machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. In turn, companies would need to be more transparent about their use of the data and would be unable to disclose or sell it without consent. Dark patterns — used to sway users — would also be outlawed, and it would be unlawful to target ads based on private messages. In case of a data breach, the impacted company would have 72 hours to notify users and the DPA.
If any of the agency’s rules are violated, companies could be fined $42,530 per incident. State attorneys general would be allowed to bring on civil actions and affected consumers could file civil suits in response.
“Our country urgently needs a legal framework to protect consumers from the ever-growing data-collection and data-sharing industries that make billions annually off Americans’ personal information,” said Rep. Lofgren. “Privacy for online consumers has been nonexistent — and we need to give users control of their personal data by making legitimate changes to business practices.”