Wicker, Thune, Fischer, Blackburn Introduce Consumer Data Privacy Legislation

September 17, 2020

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, Deb. Fischer, R-Neb., chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety, and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., today introduced the Setting an American Framework to Ensure Data Access, Transparency, and Accountability (SAFE DATA) Act. The legislation would provide Americans with more choice and control over their data and direct businesses to be more transparent and accountable for their data practices. The bill would also enhance the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) authority and provide additional resources to enforce the Act.

“As COVID-19 increases activity online and opportunities to misuse personal data continue to surge, it is time to pass a uniform, national privacy law,” said Wicker. “More than ever, we need to stop bad actors and restore consumers’ trust in the internet marketplace. Today I am introducing a bill that would provide all Americans with baseline protections and more transparency, choice, and control over their data. It would also strengthen the FTC’s ability to hold businesses accountable when using data for nefarious purposes. I encourage my colleagues to support this legislation so that we can instill confidence in consumers and in the long-term sustainability of our digital economy.” 

“Today’s introduction of the SAFE DATA Act is the right step toward a more comprehensive online transparency and reform effort, and, importantly, the legislation sets a single national data privacy standard for consumers,” said Thune. “I’m glad the broader legislation includes my Filter Bubble Transparency Act, legislation that would make it easier for internet platform users to understand the potential manipulation that exists with secret online algorithms. Thanks to Chairman Wicker for his action on this issue, and I look forward to bringing more attention to this bill at next week’s Commerce Committee hearing.”

“As COVID-19 has shifted social and economic activities to the internet, it is more important than ever that all Americans have transparency and control regarding their personal data,” said Fischer. “I am proud to cosponsor this legislation, which would create a comprehensive federal data privacy framework that restores consumer trust and sets guardrails for responsible data use. The bill also includes my bipartisan DETOUR Act with Senator Warner to protect consumers against deceptive user interfaces online known as ‘dark patterns.’”

“Americans need to be able to trust that their personal information and presence online, which I call the ‘Virtual You,’ will be protected,” said Blackburn. “I am pleased that the legislation we are introducing today includes key tenets of my BROWSER Act, requiring Big Tech companies to provide users with clear notice of their privacy policies and the ability to opt-in to the collection of sensitive information and to opt-out of the collection of non-sensitive information. The Federal Trade Commission is the right entity to enforce these rules and ensures we have a consistent national law regarding online privacy. The SAFE DATA Act is an important next step in giving users more control over their data and strengthening the FTC’s ability to respond to harmful changes in technology.”

The SAFE DATA Act would: 

Provide Americans with more choice and control over their data by:

  • Requiring businesses to allow consumers to access, correct, delete, or port their data; 
  • Prohibiting businesses from processing or transferring consumers’ sensitive data without their consent; 
  • Prohibiting businesses from denying consumers products or services for exercising their privacy rights; 
  • Minimizing the amount of consumer data businesses can collect, process, and retain; 
  • Limiting secondary uses of consumer data without their consent; 
  • Establishing uniform data protections across the country enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general;

Direct businesses to be more transparent and accountable for their data practices by: 

  • Requiring businesses to disclose a privacy policy to consumers detailing their data collection, processing, and transfer activities, and notify consumers of any material changes to those activities;
  • Requiring businesses to conduct privacy impact assessments of data processing activities that may present a heightened risk of harm to consumers; 
  • Requiring businesses to secure consumers’ data and maintain internal controls and reporting structures to assess data privacy risks to consumers; and
  • Requiring online platforms to be transparent about their use of secret algorithms.

Strengthen the FTC’s ability to respond to potentially harmful changes in technology and hold businesses accountable for misusing consumers’ data by: 

  • Authorizing the FTC to develop new rules to expand categories of sensitive data;
  • Requiring the FTC to share any information with the appropriate Executive or State agency if it obtains information that a business has processed or transferred consumer data in a way that violates Federal anti-discrimination laws; 
  • Requiring the FTC to maintain a data broker registry; 
  • Expanding the FTC’s authority to oversee the data use practices of common carriers and nonprofit organizations; and
  • Restoring the FTC’s authority to obtain monetary remedies for consumers. 

Click here to read the bill. 

In November 2019, the Commerce Committee released a staff draft of the SAFE DATA Act, originally entitled the United States Consumer Data Privacy Act. Since its release, the introduced bill has been updated to clarify definitions, expand the scope of data that is covered under the bill, and protect consumers from being manipulated by algorithms used by online platforms. The bill also would restore the FTC’s ability to obtain monetary remedies for consumers, which is an issue the agency has asked Congress to address.