On Thursday, March 5, 2015, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), along with Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Al Franken (D-MN), introduced legislation that would grant the FTC authority to issue new rules pertaining to data brokers. The bill, titled the “Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act,” defines data brokers as any “commercial entity that collects, assembles, or maintains personal information concerning an individual who is not a customer or an employee of that entity in order to sell the information or provide third party access to the information.” 

The bill would require the FTC to promulgate rules for data brokers that would prohibit obtaining or soliciting information from consumers under false pretenses.  It would also require that data brokers establish procedures to ensure the accuracy of the information they collect and maintain.  Further, data brokers would be required to permit access by individuals to information collected about them at least once per year upon request, at no cost.  Data brokers would be required to verify an individual’s identity before permitting access to the information, and would not be allowed to collect or retain any information submitted during that verification process.  Individuals would have the right to dispute the accuracy of any information about them and have it corrected. 

The bill would also grant consumers the right to express a preference as to whether information collected about them by a data broker may be used for marketing purposes.  Data brokers would be required to post clear notices on their websites about consumers’ right to review their data and express marketing preferences. 

Violations of the bill would be treated as unfair or deceptive trade practices under the FTC Act and subject to Commission enforcement and penalties.  State attorney’s general would have the power to bring civil actions against data brokers in federal district courts for violations as well. 

Sen. Markey’s bill parallels parts of the president’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, in that it seeks to give consumers greater access to and control over the personal data collected about them.  However, Markey’s bill would apply solely to data brokers, while the president’s proposal would apply to companies that gather data directly from their customers. 

Markey’s bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.  It is unclear if or when a hearing on such legislation may occur.