June 17, 2022

Wyden, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Ban Data Brokers from Selling Americans’ Location and Health Data

With the extremist Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the need to protect location and health data is more crucial than ever

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden said today he is cosponsoring the Health and Location Data Protection Act, legislation that bans data brokers from selling Americans’ health and location data.

“When abortion is illegal, researching reproductive health care online, updating a period-tracking app, or bringing a phone to the doctor’s office all could be used to track and prosecute women across the U.S,” Wyden said. “It amounts to uterus surveillance. Congress must protect Americans’ privacy from abuse by far-right politicians who want to control women’s bodies. I’m proud to work with Senator Warren to introduce the Health and Location Data Protection Act.”

Data brokers collect and sell intensely personal data from millions of Americans, often without their consent or knowledge, reaping massive profits. Largely unregulated by federal law, the unsavory business practices of data brokers pose real dangers to Americans everywhere. Data gathered by brokers has been used to circumvent the Fourth Amendment, out LGBTQ+ people, stalk and harass individuals, and jeopardize the safety of people who visit abortion clinics for health care

The Health and Location Data Protection Act would: 

  • Ban data brokers from selling or transferring location data and health data and require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to promulgate rules to implement the law within 180 days, while making exceptions for HIPAA-compliant activities, protected First Amendment speech, and validly authorized disclosures.
  • Ensure robust enforcement of the bill’s provisions by empowering the FTC, state attorneys general, and injured persons to sue to enforce the provisions of the law.
  • Provide $1 billion in funding to the Federal Trade Commission over the next decade to carry out its work, including the enforcement of this law.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Alongside Wyden, the legislation was cosponsored by U.S. Senators Patty Murray, D-Wash., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

The legislation is endorsed by a wide range of data and sexual privacy experts, including experts from Duke University, University of Virginia, and Washington University in St. Louis. 

A summary of the bill is here.

Full text of the bill is here.