Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden Introduces National Privacy Act

Earlier this week, Michael Beckerman — the president of the Internet Association, a lobbying group that includes Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft among its members — got an op-ed published in the New York Times strongly objecting to state-level privacy laws:

A patchwork of state laws means that a California woman who orders an item from a Missouri business that manufactures in Florida could have her data regulated by three separate laws, or by no applicable law. Despite California’s Consumer Privacy Protection Act the state’s residents cannot be assured that the protections that apply when they deal with a business covered by the law will apply when they shop at their corner store, travel across the country or engage in online transactions with companies that are not subject to California’s privacy law.

Not only will this add to consumer confusion around how data is handled, it will also undoubtedly lead to inconsistent treatment of data depending on a variety of factors, including the residency of the consumer and the type of businesses with whom they interact.

Beckerman argued for a national privacy law, and that’s what Sen. Ron Wyden is introducing today. You can read the bill in full, and Wyden’s office has put together a one-and-a-bit page summary (PDF) of the highlights.

Dell Cameron, Gizmodo:

First off, the “Mind Your Own Business Act” would finally arm the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with the power and personnel necessary to adequately punish out-of-control corporations. Companies would no longer simply get off with a warning the first time they break their users’ trust. Instead, they would face immediate fines of up 4 percent of their annual revenue. For companies the size of Google and Facebook, that means billions of dollars.

But here’s the kicker: Under the bill, executives who knowingly lie to the FTC about privacy violations could face up to 20 years behind bars, and their companies could then be forced to pay a tax based on the salary of the convicted executive.

I can’t imagine the successful passage of Wyden’s proposal to require companies to offer a paid version of their product or service that doesn’t track users, but I imagine the penalties able to be levied against privacy violations will be a deterrent.

Of course, this is extremely strict. It’s great for consumers. I bet the Internet Association is going to hate it.