Senate Democrats led by Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State introduced a bill Tuesday that would provide federal privacy guarantees for Americans’ personal data. It faces an uncertain-at-best future, with Republicans in control of the Senate and both Congressional chambers preoccupied with the impeachment inquiry and next year’s election. However, it’s possible that it may provide a jumping-off point for further negotiations between the parties as the public grows increasingly disillusioned with big tech companies and their lightly regulated troves of personal information.
Here’s what you need to know about the bill, which would be dubbed the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act.
The proposed law would require companies to turn over data they store about people upon their request, similar to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and keep up-to-date privacy policies explaining how they use and store data. They also couldn’t weaken privacy protections for data they’ve already stored without explicit consent.
Companies would also have to let people correct mistakes and inaccuracies in their data or simply delete it on request.
The bill would create explicit antidiscrimination rules for data processing as it relates to sensitive areas like housing and employment, with companies performing “algorithmic decision-making” in these areas required to conduct annual assessments to verify the results aren’t discriminatory.
The Federal Trade Commission would be directed to set up a new bureau within two years to focus on data protection, and both the FTC and state attorneys general could take action against violators. States would also mostly be able to maintain their own privacy and data breach protection laws, which the Washington Post reports is a likely point of contention with Republicans, who favor a single national standard.