Culture

Third times the charm? Senate proposes new digital data privacy bill

COPRA to establish a Miranda rights equivalent for your data.

Always read the privacy policy when downloading a new app.
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Congress has several plans in the pipeline designed to protect your online privacy. Along with two similar bills from the House and the Senate, the "Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act" (COPRA) will be put forth in a Commerce Committee hearing on December 4.

Senator Maria Cantwell, a prominent Democrat on the Committee, introduced the bill with the support of Senators Amy Klobuchar, Ed Markey, and Brian Schatz.

What would COPRA establish? — COPRA establishes new data privacy rights that Senator Cantwell likens to the clarity of your Miranda rights. States would still be able to follow their own privacy laws in addition to federal protections of COPRA, and citizens can sue companies that infringe on these new rights. The bill would also give the Federal Trade Commission the power to create and enforce rules based on the following rights:

  • The right to be free from deceptive and harmful data practices; financial, physical, and reputational injury; and acts that a reasonable person would find intrusive, among others.
  • The right to access their data and greater transparency, which means consumers have detailed and clear information on how their data is used and shared.
  • The right to control the movement of their data which gives consumers the ability to prevent data from being distributed to unknown third parties.
  • The right to delete or correct their data.
  • The right to take their data to a competing product or service.

What about the other bills? — Senator Ron Wyden’s “Mind Your Own Business Act” would also grant the FTC more authority in digital privacy matters. The bill also puts C-suite executives on the hook for privacy violations instead of just the companies’ often deep pockets.

Representative Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren, both from California, go a step further than the Senate bills with the Online Privacy Act. Their bill would establish an independent Digital Privacy Agency to enforce privacy laws with more substantial resources than the FTC.

All three Democratic bills will be discussed at the Commerce hearing, but despite bipartisan outrage, the likelihood of any of them passing seems slim. In January, California’s Consumer Privacy Act goes into effect and should serve as a beta test for federal lawmakers.