Senate Democrats Introduce Data Privacy Bill

A group of Senate Democrats led by Judiciary Committee ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has introduced a new data privacy and security bill.

According to Leahy's office, the bill, the Consumer Privacy Protection Act: "Requires companies who store sensitive personal or financial information on 10,000 customers or more to meet consumer privacy and data security standards to keep this information safe, and notify the customer within 30 days of a breach."

"Establishes a broad definition of information that must be protected, including social security numbers; financial account information; online usernames and passwords; unique biometric data, including fingerprints; information about a person’s physical and mental health; information about a person’s geolocation; and access to private digital photographs and videos."

"Requires companies to inform federal law enforcement of all large breaches, as well as breaches that involved federal government databases or law enforcement or national security personnel."

"Guarantees a federal baseline of strong consumer privacy protections for all Americans."

The bill would supersede weaker state laws, but not stronger ones.  Preemption of stronger state laws for a weaker national standard has been a recurring Democratic criticism of Republican-backed privacy bills.

“Today, data security is not just about protecting our identities and our bank accounts; it is about protecting our privacy.  Americans want to know not just that their bank account and credit cards are safe and secure, they want to know that their emails and their private pictures are protected as well,” Senator Leahy said in a statement.  “Companies who benefit financially from our personal information should be obligated to take steps to keep it safe, and to notify us when those protections have failed. The Consumer Privacy Protection Act would provide these needed reforms, and all lawmakers who support consumers should support this bill.”

“We are very pleased to finally see some forward-looking members of Congress introduce a privacy bill that is truly pro-consumer," said Laura Moy, senior policy counsel of New America’s Open Technology Institute. "Recently we have seen too many so-called ‘privacy’ bills that would actually replace strong state-level protections with a weaker national standard. Consumer and privacy advocates have been disappointed by those proposals, and have been very clear that we cannot support legislative proposals that represent a net loss for consumers."

Bill co-sponsors include Sens. Al Franken (Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), and Edward J. Markey (Mass.).

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.