June 18, 2020

Brown Releases New Proposal That Would Protect Consumers’ Privacy from Bad Actors

Brown’s Bill Would End Intrusive Data Collection By Empowering Consumers, Enhance Civil Rights Protections, And Establish A New Independent Agency Dedicated To Protecting Individual Privacy Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, today released a draft privacy bill, the DataAccountability and Transparency Act of 2020.  Brown’s proposal creates a new framework that would give Americans the power to hold corporations, big tech, and the government responsible for how they collect and protect personal data. The bill rejects the current, ineffective “consent” model for privacy, and instead places strict limits on the collection, use, and sharing of Americans’ personal data. The bill contains strong civil rights protections to ensure personal information is not used for discriminatory purposes, as well as a ban on the use of facial recognition technology. Brown’s proposal also establishes a new independent agency dedicated to protecting Americans’ privacy rights.

“Right now, we do not protect people’s privacy – that means we don’t protect their civil rights. We need legislation now more than ever that empowers Americans to control their personal information. No person should have to worry about being spied on, just like no one should worry about their information being bought and sold or stolen,” said Senator Brown. “My proposal would change the fundamental framework of privacy in this country. This is long overdue, Americans need and deserve to know that their personal information is safe now and in the future.”

Specifically, the DataAccountability and Transparency Act of 2020 would:

  • ·        Ban the collection, use or sharing of personal data unless specifically allowed by law
  • ·        Ban the use of facial recognition technology
  • ·        Prohibits the use of personal data to discriminate in housing, employment, credit, insurance, and public accommodations;
  • ·        Requires anyone using decision-making algorithms to provide new accountability reports
  • ·        Creates a new, independent agency that is dedicated to protecting individuals’ privacy and the implementation of DATA 2020. The new agency will have rulemaking, supervisory, and enforcement authority, the ability to issue civil penalties for violations of the Act, and a dedicated Office of Civil Rights to protect individuals from discrimination
  • ·        The proposal empowers individuals and state attorneys general to enforce privacy protections and does not preempt more protective state laws
  • ·        Finally, the proposal would require CEO certification of compliance with the Act and contains potential criminal and civil penalties for CEO and Board of Directors

More information about the legislation can be found here. Senator Brown worked with a diverse group of privacy experts as well as civil rights and consumer organizations. A selection of statements from these organizations appear below, and more can be viewed here.

“This bill sets a bold new agenda for privacy. If it becomes law, consumers can breathe a sigh of relief: rather than being expected to wade through a sea of unreadable terms of service and misleading corporate "privacy policies," we can rely on a Data Accountability and Transparency Agency to protect us from scams, discrimination, and surveillance. The bill puts the burden of privacy policy where it always should have been: on regulators to protect us from increasingly irresponsible, insecure, and invasive data collection. The bill's sponsors deserve enormous credit for their visionary data policy. This bill is now the gold standard for privacy reform: any future efforts here need to be measured against it,” Frank Pasquale, Professor of Law, University of Maryland Carey School of Law.

“The Data Accountability and Transparency Act of 2020 sets a strong standard for data protection. Collection of personal data has expanded dramatically over the last ten years, yet we have no comprehensive federal data protection standards. Data breaches, identity theft, hacking, and data misuse are on the rise. Senator Brown’s bill creates enforceable privacy rights and limits the amount of data companies can collect and keep about us. Critically, it creates a data protection agency to ensure that these rules are followed. EPIC strongly supports Data Accountability and Transparency Act of 2020,” Caitriona Fitzgerald, Interim Associate Director and Policy Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

 “Senator Brown's draft Data Accountability and Transparency Act rejects the notice and consent regime that serves data collectors well, but fails consumers. Instead of that system, which counts on consumers to surrender their data for vague down-stream uses, Senator Brown proposes a new and welcome paradigm: it limits data collection to certain permitted uses, and those alone,” Ed Mierzwinski, Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program, U.S. PIRG.

“Senator Brown’s privacy bill is among the strongest and most comprehensive put forward in Congress. It contains strong prohibitions on unfair and discriminatory data practices, protects civil rights, has robust rulemaking authority for a new privacy agency and ensures that people can enforce their rights in court. Making the kinds of big changes to the data ecosystem we need, Senator Brown’s bill would help end some of the abusive practices that have made commercial surveillance so pervasive and profitable,”  Gaurav Laroia, Senior Policy Counsel, Free Press.

Senator Brown has long fought to protect consumer’s data. He recently sent a letter to the Trump Administration expressing concern about the use of facial recognition technology to gather information on those Americans who joined in protest of systemic racial injustice. He also sent letters to Zoom Video Communications, Inc. and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about the company’s virtual meeting technology, and expressed concerns regarding Zoom’s deceptive practices by inaccurately advertising end-to-end encryption of its virtual meetings. He also joined his colleagues Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in questioning information regarding Verily’s screening platform. Finally, Senator Brown joined members of the House and Senate in asking the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to review policies regarding the use of facial recognition technologies in federally assisted housing.