Hey Tech Companies: Mind Your Own Business

4 mins read
Photo composite by Cris Palomino

Earlier this month, I introduced comprehensive privacy legislation that should resonate strongly with the DemCast community: the Mind Your Own Business Act. This legislation will create ironclad protections for consumers’ data and hold corporate executives accountable for misusing and abusing your information.

This legislation would be the most significant overhaul of privacy laws ever, even going further than Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Should it become law, it would put consumers back in the driver’s seat when it comes to controlling their own data. It also includes real, harsh penalties for executives who lie to the federal government about their failure to protect consumer data.

Under my bill, Mark Zuckerberg would be serving prison time for repeatedly lying to the Congress and federal regulators about his misuse of Americans’ private information. A slap on the wrist from the FTC won’t do the job. I’ve spent the last year listening to top cyber experts and consumer advocates and here are a few key ideas we knew we needed to include in this proposal:

  1. Consumers must be able to control their own private information.
  2. Companies must provide vastly more transparency about how they use and share our data.
  3. Corporate executives need to be held personally responsible when they lie about protecting our personal information.

The Mind Your Own Business Act protects Americans’ privacy, allows consumers to control who collects their data and where it goes, gives federal regulators the authority to hold bad actors accountable, and will spur a new market for privacy-protecting services. The bill empowers the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to:

  1. Establish minimum privacy and cybersecurity standards.
  2. Issue steep fines (up to 4% of annual revenue), on the first offense for companies and 10-20 year criminal penalties for senior executives who knowingly lie to the FTC.
  3. Create a national Do Not Track system that lets consumers stop companies from tracking them on the web, selling or sharing their data, or targeting advertisements based on their personal information. Companies that wish to condition products and services on the sale or sharing of consumer data must offer another, similar privacy-friendly version of their product, for which they can charge a reasonable fee. This fee will be waived for low-income consumers who are eligible for the Federal Communication Commission’s Lifeline program.
  4. Give consumers a way to review the personal information a company has about them, learn with whom it has been shared or sold, and to challenge inaccuracies in it.
  5. Hire 175 more staff to police the largely unregulated market for private data.
  6. Require companies to assess the algorithms that process consumer data to examine their impact on accuracy, fairness, bias, discrimination, privacy and security.

For more information, a copy of the bill text is available here.

Here is a one-page summary of the bill here.

If we’re going to see the Senate pass real privacy protections, please help us spread the word to everyone you know that you care about this issue, and that you want them to join me in telling the big tech companies: Mind Your Own Business.

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is known for his strong, effective leadership on the issues that matter most and for his accessibility to the public. Every single year, he holds a town meeting in each of the state’s 36 counties - and the occasional ice cream social. In the Senate, Senator Wyden is known for his effectiveness in getting things done and his creative approach to tough problems - particularly in the areas of health care, technology, and natural resources. He serves on the Committees on Intelligence, Budget, and Energy and Natural Resources. He is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and the leading Senate Democrat on the Joint Committee on Taxation.

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