November 01, 2018

Wyden Releases Discussion Draft of Legislation to Provide Real Protections for Americans’ Privacy

Bill Requires Radical Transparency About How Corporations Share, Sell and Use Your Data; Creates Tough Penalties and Jail Time for Executives;

Washington, D.C. –Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., released a discussion draft of sweeping new legislation that would empower consumers to control their personal information, create radical transparency into how corporations use and share their data, and impose harsh fines and prison terms for executives at corporations that misuse Americans’ data.

“Today’s economy is a giant vacuum for your personal information – Everything you read, everywhere you go, everything you buy and everyone you talk to is sucked up in a corporation’s database. But individual Americans know far too little about how their data is collected, how it’s used and how it’s shared,”  Wyden said.

“It’s time for some sunshine on this shadowy network of information sharing. My bill creates radical transparency for consumers, gives them new tools to control their information and backs it up with tough rules with real teeth to punish companies that abuse Americans’ most private information.”

Read the full bill text here.

Read the section-by-section here.

A one-page summary of the legislation is here.

Sen. Wyden is accepting feedback on the bill at

Wyden has fought tirelessly to secure Americans’ privacy for years, warning in 2011 that the government was secretly using the Patriot Act in ways that would outrage Americans when the truth came out. He and other privacy advocates successfully ended the Patriot Act mass surveillance of Americans’ phone records in 2015. He has introduced legislation to create new protections for location information and to end warrantless searches of Americans at the border. And earlier this year he successfully pressured major wireless carriers to end their partnerships with shady middlemen who traffic in location data.

The Consumer Data Protection Act protects Americans’ privacy, allows consumers to control the sale and sharing of their data, gives the FTC the authority to be an effective cop on the beat, and will spur a new market for privacy-protecting services. The bill empowers the 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.
  3. Create a national Do Not Track system that lets consumers stop third-party companies from tracking them on the web by sharing data, selling data, or targeting advertisements based on their personal information. It permits companies to charge consumers who want to use their products and services, but don’t want their information monetized.
  4. Give consumers a way to review what 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.

Consumer advocates hailed the bill as a major step forward on privacy: 

“This is an important and thoughtful contribution to the long overdue debate we’re having about privacy law in America. Consumers Union sincerely appreciates Senator Wyden’s continued leadership on defending consumer rights,” said Justin Brookman, Director of Privacy and Technology Policy at Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports.

Search engine DuckDuckGo said the measure will empower consumers:

DuckDuckGo's CEO, Gabriel Weinberg, said: "Senator Wyden’s proposed consumer privacy bill creates needed privacy protections for consumers, mandating easy opt-outs from hidden tracking. By forcing companies that sell and monetize user data to be more transparent about their data practices, the bill will also empower consumers to make better-informed privacy decisions online, enabling companies like ours to compete on a more level playing field."

Four former Federal Trade Commission chief technologists also praised the legislation:

“Senator Wyden’s discussion draft is an important step towards strengthening the FTC and giving the agency much-needed technical resources to protect consumers. Technology is now an integral part of commerce — creating a Bureau of Technology and staffing it with technology experts acknowledges this reality and equips the FTC to be an effective cop on the beat.”

-Dr. Lorrie Faith Cranor, FTC Chief Technologist, January 2016 – January 2017, Ashkan Soltani, FTC Chief Technologist, September 2014 – December 2015, Dr. Latanya Sweeney, FTC Chief Technologist, January 2014 – September 2014, Dr. Steven M. Bellovin, FTC Chief Technologist, September 2012 – August 2013.