On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who was named the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship last week, unveiled a bill looking to protect consumer data privacy.
Rubio showcased the “American Data Dissemination (ADD) Act” which, he insisted, “would provide a national consumer data privacy law that protects both consumers and the innovative capabilities of the internet economy” and “provides overdue transparency and accountability from the tech industry while ensuring that small businesses and start-ups are still able to innovate and compete in the digital marketplace."
The Florida Republican insisted the bill balances consumer privacy with changing technology.
“There has been a growing consensus that Congress must take action to address consumer data privacy,” Rubio said. “However, I believe that any efforts to address consumer privacy must also balance the need to protect the innovative capabilities of the digital economy that have enabled new entrants and small businesses to succeed in the marketplace. That is why I am introducing the American Data Dissemination Act, which will protect small businesses and startups while ensuring that consumers are provided with overdue rights and protections. It is critical that we do not create a regulatory environment that entrenches big tech corporations. Congress must act, but it is even more important that Congress act responsibly to create a transparent, digital environment that maximizes consumer welfare over corporate welfare.”
The bill makes the FTC offer recommendations for privacy requirements to Congress much like it currently does on other matters under the Privacy Act of 1974. The legislation would also make the FTC “promulgate a final rule, not later than 27 months after the date of enactment to impose privacy requirements based on the narrow, congressionally mandated course of action created through this bill” if Congress fails to act.
Pointing to how the founders of Facebook and Google have made fortunes from online data, Rubio penned a piece in “The Hill” which was published on Wednesday on why he had introduced the bill.
“Your data is incredibly valuable, and for the most part, it is not even yours. But use of your personal data is governed by antiquated laws that do not work in the modern economy. The time has come for Congress to address consumer data privacy in a candid, responsible and modern manner,” Rubio wrote. “The Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal last year revealed a severe lack of accountability and transparency in the company’s handling of user data. While this individual incident was sufficiently troublesome, consumers have plenty of reasons to question who has access to their data when they provide it to an online entity.”
Rubio insisted Congress can take more of a role on the issue.
“The current structure of most privacy policies that users blindly accept protect tech providers instead of user privacy and data. This is unacceptable, which is why I am introducing the American Data Dissemination (ADD) Act,” Rubio wrote. “My bill uses the Privacy Act of 1974, widely considered one of the seminal pieces of privacy law in effect today, as its framework. The Privacy Act came in response to Watergate because Congress was concerned with government’s increasing use of computers to store and retrieve personal data. Today, we face a similar crisis, but it involves private industry, and their use and dissemination of our data.
“It is important Congress legislate the new rules of the road, but we should use the non-partisan expertise from the agency of jurisdiction to ensure lawmakers make informed decisions to properly protect consumers. My bill requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to provide Congress with detailed privacy requirements within six months that would be substantially similar to the requirements under the 1974 Privacy Act. I believe that these recommendations will give Congress the direction needed to draft legislation that will effectively protect both consumers and the innovative capabilities of our internet economy. These recommendations would incorporate many of the same principles from the Privacy Act and provide overdue transparency to the use of our data,” Rubio continued.
“However, my bill also takes important precautions to ensure it does not entrench large, incumbent corporations,” Rubio added. “Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google (FAANG) and others would welcome cumbersome regulations that prevent start-ups and smaller competitors from challenging the FAANG’s current dominance. We should be cautious in balancing the legitimate privacy needs of individuals with the important contributions the Internet has made to increase our societal knowledge sharing capabilities. While we may have disagreements on the best path forward, no one believes a privacy law that only bolsters the largest companies with the resources to comply and stifles our start-up marketplace is the right approach. Any national privacy law must provide clear, consistent protections that both consumers and companies can understand, and the FTC can enforce. That is why my bill leans heavily on the Privacy Act framework. However, we also cannot tolerate inaction. If Congress does not act on the FTC’s recommendations within two years, my bill gives the FTC authority to issue a final rulemaking based on the Privacy Act framework. I am confident that my colleagues will be able to act within this timeframe, but if we are not I am comforted that the FTC would have a narrow, congressionally mandated course of action.”
Rubio insisted that America was “ready for reforms to our national privacy law designed for the privacy challenges of today and tomorrow,” including “changes that provide consumers with basic rights and increased transparency, but also ensures small businesses can continue to thrive.” He insisted there was a role for business leaders when it comes to crafting policy in Washington.
“Tech industry leaders should encourage responsible legislation that provides clear rules for companies to operate under and prevents future scandals. While we may not have a consensus in Congress, we must begin to offer solutions. Because this is the only way we can regain the public’s trust,” Rubio concluded.