The Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act has returned to Congress. Re-introduced by Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.), the bill would establish federal oversight for the collection, retention, and use of consumer information in the data broker industry.
A pet issue for former Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who launched a Senate investigation of the industry and introduced a version of the legislation last year before he retired, the bill defines a “data broker” as “a 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 law would allow consumers to stop data brokers from using and selling their information and would create a mechanism to correct information. The Federal Trade Commission—which conducted its own study of the industry last year—would be tasked with crafting regulations to establish a centralized Web site for consumers to learn about their rights and obtain information from the companies.
“Data brokers seem to believe that there is no such thing as privacy,” Sen. Markey said in a statement, citing a need to “shed light on this ‘shadow’ industry,” a sentiment echoed by co-sponsor Sen. Franken. “I believe Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, including the right to determine whether information about their personal lives should be available for sale to the highest bidder,” Sen. Franken said in a statement.
Consumer groups like the Center for Digital Democracy and Consumer Watchdog praised the proposal, while FTC Commissioner Julie Brill expressed her “strong support.”
The Direct Marketing Association spoke out against the measure, calling it unnecessary in part because of self-regulatory efforts by the industry. “There’s not a business in America that’s not dependent on the responsible flows of data about consumers,” said Rachel Thomas, vice president of government affairs for the group.
To read the Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act, click here.
Why it matters: The measure faces an uncertain future in Congress given pushback from the industry, a division along party lines, and other privacy-related proposal issues like data breach notification and cyberthreat information sharing, which are currently under legislative consideration.