Congress Moves Bicameral Data Privacy Bill to Protect Public

The Senate and House Commerce Committee chairs have jointly released a bipartisan bill that seeks to protect the personal online data of U.S. citizens. The American Privacy Rights Act aims to set “clear, national data privacy rights and protections for Americans” and establishes a way individuals can sue entities that violate its provisions. The proposed law represents a years-long effort by Congress to establish data privacy regulations. If it passes, it will preempt the various data privacy laws enacted by states including California, Colorado, Connecticut and Tennessee.

“This bipartisan, bicameral draft legislation is the best opportunity we’ve had in decades to establish a national data privacy and security standard that gives people the right to control their personal information,” Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), who unveiled the landmark bill, said in a joint statement.

The proposal “reins in Big Tech by prohibiting them from tracking, predicting, and manipulating people’s behaviors for profit without their knowledge and consent,” Rodgers said, adding that it “gives Americans the right to control where their information goes and who can sell it.”

If enacted, the legislation “will set one national privacy standard that the lawmakers said is ‘stronger’ than any state’s existing laws,” writes The Hill, adding that it will allow Americans more control over their personal information, “including allowing them to prevent a company from transferring or selling their data.”

It will let people “opt out” of targeted advertising. Among the strict provisions are a requirement that companies secure “affirmative express consent” before transferring a consumer’s sensitive data to a third party.

“The bill’s description of sensitive data includes financial information, health data, private communications and government-issued identifiers such as social security numbers,” reports Silicon Republic.

In addition to allowing people to sue “bad actors who violate their privacy rights,” it prevents companies from forcing mandatory arbitration provisions on consumers.

Cantwell says the legislation offers “the protections Americans deserve in the Information Age,” explaining “a federal data privacy law must do two things: it must make privacy a consumer right, and it must give consumers the ability to enforce that right.”

The Hill points out that the House Committee on Energy and Commerce “advanced a similar privacy bill in 2022, but the Senate did not take up its own version then.”

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