A sweeping Democratic privacy protection bill proposed last Thursday seeks to create a new, independent agency to monitor and enforce the bill’s strict privacy provisions. Companies seeking to collect sensitive personal data would have to receive a “certification of compliance” from the new agency.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in a press release the Data Accountability and Transparency Act of 2020 (DATA 2020) would “give Americans the power to hold corporations, big tech, and the government responsible for how they collect and protect personal data.”
The draft bill “rejects the current, ineffective ‘consent’ model for privacy, and instead places strict limits on the collection, use, and sharing of Americans’ personal data,” Brown said. “The bill contains strong civil rights protections to ensure personal information is not used for discriminatory purposes, as well as a ban on the use of facial recognition technology.”
Significantly, Brown’s bill would create a new, independent agency that “will have rulemaking, supervisory, and enforcement authority, the ability to issue civil penalties for violations of the Act, and a dedicated Office of Civil Rights to protect individuals from discrimination.”
Company CEOs would have to apply for and receive an annual “certification of compliance” from the new agency, with potential criminal and civil penalties for the CEO and board of directors for violations. As part of that process, companies would have to submit their data collection algorithms to the new agency.
Other key provisions of the bill include a ban on facial recognition software and a ban on the use of data to “discriminate in housing, employment, credit, insurance, and public accommodations.”
Federal laws that cover data privacy are currently enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, although many have called for the creation of a single, strong federal data privacy law. In the absence of federal legislation, states have begun passing and enforcing their own data privacy laws, starting with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which took effect Jan. 1. Nevada’s data privacy law took effect in Oct. 2019. A privacy bill in Washington state is pending before the state legislature.
The DATA 2020 bill is the second drafted by a Democratic senator this year to propose the creation of a new agency to oversee data privacy. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in February introduced the Data Protection Act of 2020, which would create a Data Protection Agency in the United States in order to oversee and enforce federal privacy mandates. Gillibrand’s bill, though, did not include a specific privacy law for the agency to enforce.