Democrats Introduce Data Broker Bill

Another day, another Equifax-related headline from Capitol Hill. This time, it’s about a bill from a quartet of Democratic senators they say will hold the data-broker industry accountable for breaches.

Equifax revealed last week it had been hit by a breach affecting a staggering 143 million Americans, leading one senator to suggest Congress needs to take a comprehensive look at cybersecurity.

Also in reaction to the breach, Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Thursday introduced the Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act, which would allow consumers to access and correct their information and give those consumers the power to stop brokers from using, sharing or selling personal information for marketing purposes.

Related: House E&C Dems Want More From Equifax

The bill would also require brokers to develop “comprehensive privacy and data security programs” and provide “reasonable” notice in case of breaches. The Federal Trade Commission would be empowered to enforce the law and even promulgate new rules to establish a centralized website with a list of broker and the consumers' rights.

In addition to being one of the three major credit reporting agencies, they point out, Equifax is also a data broker.

“This urgently needed bill will help protect consumers from the massive data gathering tactics of companies as Equifax,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, in a statement released by the senators. “Americans need to know what information is being compiled and used about them and their families, including what they do online.  Instead of operating as a stealth data broker that mines our information 24/7, they will now be held more accountable for what they do.”

The House hasscheduled a hearingon the breach for Oct. 3.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.