Markey, Rockefeller Introduce Data Broker Bill to Ensure Accuracy, Accountability for Consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV) and Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) today introduced legislation that would require data brokers to be accountable and transparent about the information they collect and sell about consumers.

“Consumers deserve to know what information about their personal lives is being collected and sold to marketers by data brokers,” Rockefeller said. “This booming shadow industry, that generated more than $150 billion in 2012 and operates with very little scrutiny and oversight, is making tremendous profits off practices that can be disturbing and totally unfair to consumers. As I said during the Committee’s recent hearing on data brokers, I would be taking action to protect consumers and hold data brokers accountable. This legislation is a strong step in that direction. It will give consumers important protections like the ability to access files a data broker compiles of their personal information; the ability to correct inaccuracies in those files; and, importantly, choose whether they want to allow their personal information to be sold to other companies.”

“Consumers have the right to access to their personal data, the ability to correct it, and opt-out from marketing purposes, and Chairman Rockefeller’s legislation ensures these critical consumer controls,” said Markey. “The data broker industry has for too longer operated in the shadows, compiling dossiers on millions of Americans. It is time to shine a light on this industry, and Chairman Rockefeller’s legislation helps put in place a system of rules that puts consumers in control of their information. I am proud to co-sponsor this bill, and look forward to working with Chairman Rockefeller and my colleagues to pass this important legislation for consumers.”

The Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) comes on the heels of aninvestigation and majority staff report by the Commerce Committee into the multibillion-dollar industry. Released in December 2013, the report revealed the breadth and scope of the sensitive data – including financial, health, and other personal information – that is routinely amassed by data brokers on consumers without their knowledge or consent. The Committee also held a hearing on Dec. 18, 2013, to examine the privacy and accountability concerns with the industry.

The bill would prohibit data brokers from collecting or soliciting consumer information in deceptive ways, and it would allow consumers to access and correct their information to help ensure maximum possible accuracy. Under the DATA Act, consumers would also be able to opt out of having their information collected and sold by data brokers for marketing purposes.

The legislation would empower the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the law and to impose civil penalties on data brokers that violate consumers’ privacy and trust.

The DATA Act is part of Rockefeller’s longstanding efforts as Chairman of the Commerce Committee to protect consumer online privacy. Last month, Rockefeller, along with Senators Feinstein, Pryor, and Nelson, introducedthe Data Security and Breach Notification Act (S. 1976), which would create a federal standard for companies that safeguard consumers’ personal information and require companies to notify affected consumers in the wake of a breach.