Markey, Blumenthal, Whitehouse and Franken Introduce Legislation to Ensure Transparency and Accountability in Data Broker Industry
Gives consumers the right to stop data brokers from using, sharing, or selling personal information for marketing purposes
Washington (March 5, 2015) – Senators Edward J. Markey, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced legislation to require accountability and transparency for data brokers who are collecting and selling personal and sensitive information about consumers. The Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 668) will allow consumers to access and correct their information to help ensure maximum accuracy. The bill also provides consumers with the right to stop data brokers from using, sharing, or selling their personal information for marketing purposes. The legislation also empowers the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce the law and promulgate rules within one year, including rules necessary to establish a centralized website for consumers to view a list of covered data brokers and information regarding consumer rights.
“Data brokers seem to believe that there is no such thing as privacy,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “The era of data keepers has given way to an era of data reapers. We need to shed light on this ‘shadow’ industry of surreptitious data collection that has amassed covert dossiers on hundreds of millions of Americans. This legislation ensures that data brokers cannot take advantage of the most valuable possessions that consumers have: their personal information. I thank Senators Blumenthal, Whitehouse and Franken for their leadership protecting consumers and look forward to working with all of my colleagues to pass legislation that puts consumers, not corporations, in control of their personal information.”
“This legislation provides critical protections against insidious, invisible threats on the internet – the sale of personal, confidential information, violating privacy and security. The bill guarantees the consumers’ right to access personal information collected about them, correct inaccuracies, and control how this data is used. Whether you browse the Internet or shop at brick-and-mortar stores, third-party companies are aggregating massive amounts of data about you and formulating potentially sensitive inferences about who you are,” said Senator Blumenthal, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “Consumers have little, if any, way of knowing what information is being stored or to whom it is being sold. This legislation safeguards personal privacy and security in our everyday lives.”
“Too often, Rhode Islanders’ personal and sensitive information is sold for marketing purposes,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Unfortunately, data brokers do not see this as a violation of consumers’ privacy. This legislation would protect consumers by allowing them to take control of their personal information, while preventing data brokers from distributing or selling this data.”
“I believe Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, including the right to determine whether information about their personal lives should be available for sale to the highest bidder,” said Sen. Franken, the top Democratic on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. “The American people deserve transparency and accountability from companies that trade on their privacy, and this bill will help consumers regain control of their personal information.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
The legislation is supported by Consumer Watchdog, US PIRG, and Center for Digital Democracy.
In the House of Representatives, then-Rep. Markey launched an investigation of the data broker industry, querying nine major data broker companies on each company's business practices and whether and how the company collects, assembles and sells consumer information to third parties. Last year, Senator Markey joined with Senate Commerce committee chairman John Rockefeller (D-W.V.) to introduce similar legislation.