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Sen. Markey Introduces Bill of Rights

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is taking another shot at the privacy Bill of Rights he, and a former Democratic Administration, had pushed for. This effort includes by making sure that the digital equivalent of a lunch counter can't discriminate against its patrons.

Sen. Ed Markey

Sen. Ed Markey

The legislation, which would cover privacy on and offline, would require the Federal Trade Commission to mandate readable privacy policies and limit data collection. It also gets at issues for algorithmic discrimination by classifying online businesses as public accommodations, as are brick and mortar businesses.

“America’s laws have failed to keep pace with the unprecedented use of consumers’ data and the consistent cadence of breaches and privacy invasions that plague our economy and society,” said Markey, essentially echoing a bipartisan sentiment on Capitol Hill these days if a raft of hearings, bill proposals, and requests for more information from edge providers is any gauge.

Related: Sen. Markey Looks to Update COPPA

Specifically, Markey's Bill of Rights bill:

1. "Prohibits companies from using individuals’ personal information in discriminatory ways

2. "Requires companies to protect and secure the personal information that they hold

3. "Establishes a centralized FTC website that tells consumers about their privacy rights and requires companies to use easy to read short-form notices provided directly to consumers

4. "Ensures companies collect only the information they need from consumers in order to provide the requested services

5. "Enables State Attorneys General to protect the interest of their residents and bring action against companies that violate the privacy rights of individuals. Individuals will also have a private right of action empowering them to defend their own privacy rights."

Back in 2012, The Obama Administration backed a privacy Bill of Rights but did not get much traction on Capitol Hill.

The timing may be better this time around what with the general push from both political sides for some kind of privacy middle ground that protects consumers and politicians and everyone else from having their data manipulated or their identities stolen, or from being played by foreign powers.

The political will seems to be there for some kind of legislation that would give online users--which is most of us--more control over data and a better sense of how it is being used and monetized. One byproduct could well be having to pay for some of the information that has been free given that the sharing of data for targeted advertising underpins the free content model online.

Related: Dems Call for Privacy Bill of Rights

"Discriminatory data practices have disproportionate impacts on people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, religious minorities and other marginalized communities," said Free Press Action Policy Counsel Gaurav Laroia. "By collecting huge swaths of personal information and feeding it into algorithms designed to profile individuals for ad targeting and engagement, tech companies are facilitating a new era of segregation and discrimination.

“By classifying online businesses as public accommodations, the bill rightfully applies the same kinds of anti-discrimination protections that desegregated lunch counters and shops during the Civil Rights Movement. By giving people the right to take companies to court for violating their rights, the bill gives people the means to fight exploitation of their data and would prevent companies from building tools that reinforce discrimination."

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.