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U.S. senator introduces radical bill to protect people’s private data

A U.S. senator has called for a radical new approach to consumer privacy to be adopted following recent revelations about the sale and misuse of data by various technology companies. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has introduced a new bill as an even stronger update to his privacy legislation proposed last year.

The new legislation titled the “Mind Your Own Business Act,” would give significant powers to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to regulate the sale and sharing of data by companies. It would allow the FTC to establish privacy and security standards and to levy significant fines of up to 4% of annual revenue against companies that do not meet those standards. There would even be an option to impose criminal penalties onto company executives who knowingly lie to the FTC.

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The legislation would also create a Do Not Track system, allowing people to opt-out of being tracked on the internet, and let them stop companies from selling or sharing their data. Plus companies would have to provide people with copies of their data for review and reveal with whom it has been shared or sold.

Taken together, these new rules would give people a “one-click way” to see which companies have data about them and how that data has been spread. Wyden argues that this legislation is necessary now, as companies like Facebook won’t seriously address privacy concerns until they are forced to.

“Mark Zuckerberg won’t take Americans’ privacy seriously unless he feels personal consequences,” Wyden said in a statement. “A slap on the wrist from the FTC won’t do the job, so under my bill, he’d face jail time for lying to the government. I spent the past year listening to experts and strengthening the protections in my bill. It is based on three basic ideas: Consumers must be able to control their own private information, companies must provide vastly more transparency about how they use and share our data, and corporate executives need to be held personally responsible when they lie about protecting our personal information.”

Bringing Facebook and other tech companies to account for their misuse of people’s data has been an uphill battle, but with mounting calls from politicians to break up the Big Four and increasing public awareness of privacy issues, the tide may be turning. Although the power of the technology lobby in Washington means Wyden’s bill is unlikely to ever become law, raising the prospect of GDPR-style legislation for the U.S. is a step along the road to a more robust system of privacy for Americans and others around the world.

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