Do businesses and consumers have to give up their right to data privacy in order to benefit from innovative, personalized, and feature-rich apps and other technology solutions? At times, it seems like the answer is yes. However, many in the tech space, including Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, don’t believe this needs to be the case. A bill recently introduced to Congress by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the ADD (American Data Dissemination) Act, is the latest example of how the U.S. government is working toward providing a solution that will help ensure data privacy in a digital age.
Rubio, a Republican Senator from Florida, presented the ADD Act on January 16 and suggests the legislation would provide a national consumer data privacy law that protects consumers as well as “the innovative capabilities of the internet economy.” A few points differentiate this bill from others that have been introduced in Congress, including the fact that the ADD Act is based in many ways on the Privacy Act of 1974. The latter Act established a code of fair information practices that applies to systems of records by federal agencies. The ADD Act means to extend these “fair information practices” to consumers whose data is being collected, used, and disseminated by private companies.
Rubio’s office says the ADD Act will require the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to submit detailed recommendations for privacy requirements that Congress can impose on covered providers. Additionally, within 12 months after these recommendations are submitted, the FTC would be required to publish and submit to Congress proposed regulations to impose privacy requirements on covered providers. Finally, if Congress doesn’t enact a law based on these recommendations within two years after enactment, the bill would give the FTC power to create its own set of privacy requirements.
The Privacy Act of 1974 requires federal agencies to give public notice of their systems of records, it prohibits the disclosure of an individual’s record without written consent from that individual (with exceptions), and it makes it possible for individuals to access and modify their records. Similarly, the proposed ADD Act also includes provisions intended to protect consumers’ rights to access and even delete their records. Rubio’s office made a point to say the bill will require certain exemptions from the privacy regulations for small, newly formed internet businesses, so as to avoid “entrenching” large, incumbent actors and impeding fresh blood from entering the space.
Critics say the bill isn’t potent enough to really address the needs of today’s society in terms of data collection and use. Furthermore, it could pre-empt state laws, like the latest information privacy legislation in California that will take effect in January 2020, among others, that are pushing the envelope in data privacy legislation. For these reasons and others, the bill may have a tough time getting through Congress. However, the fact that Congress is already talking about data privacy and security is not just a good start to 2019, it’s a great one. Whether the ADD Act is enacted or some other version of a data privacy bill is what becomes the law of the land, a movement toward common-sense regulation that also allows for innovation and business growth could be a positive for the IoT (Internet of Things) industry and the tech space at large.
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