Big Tech Versus Private Consumers – Who Will the Legislature Support?

This past weekend, more than half a billion people in 106 countries – including about 30 million in the United States – had their personal data compromised in a Facebook data breach.

The total number of victims whose personal information was compromised is more than the entire population of the European Union, and almost two-thirds larger than the entire U.S. population.

To ensure Floridians’ personal privacy is protected, two Tallahassee lawmakers are addressing the issue of the need for individuals to be able to protect their personal information.

State. Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Orange Park, and state Rep. Fionna McFarland, R-Sarasota, have introduced the Florida Privacy Protection Act.

“Its time we prioritize and protect people’s data privacy and security,” said Bradley.

The bill focuses on several areas, including informing consumers when companies, who have more than 50 percent of their revenues derived from the sale of individuals’ private information, that their information is being tracked. The proposal would also let consumers know what’s being done with that information and gives them the option to opt-out of data collection or have their data deleted.

Bradley and McFarland told Florida Daily that their legislation does not apply to every company in Florida but is targeted to companies in the state that are the main drivers of selling Floridians’ personal information.

One of the top executives at tech company Oracle told legislators that the company “strongly supports” this effort to give Floridians more control over their personal data.

“It is long past time for consumers to regain control over their data and their privacy,” Oracle Executive VP Kenneth Glueck told legislators in a letter. “When legislation of this type receives opposition from big tech, that’s exactly why it needs to pass.”

The bill does have opposition. Bradley pointed out that many large companies that profit off of using personal information gathered from digital activity are opposing this legislation, including several multinational corporations. McFarland said these entities need to be held accountable with the kind of disclosure and transparency measures included in the Florida Privacy Protection Act.

“They can still use consumers’ information – as long as they do it with the permission of the individual whose information they have,” McFarland said.

Proponents of the bill say it offers a right step to protecting personal information, although they recognize new amendments will water it down.

One of these loopholes will allow companies to “loan” out personal information collected, rather than sell it. The legislation is being weakened – including with the support of large tech companies – by loosening enforcement of data privacy measures.

Bradley and McFarland pointed to the global Facebook data breach as a reason why their legislation is needed. They called for more support and to strengthen the Florida Privacy Protection Act – not water it down.

“We go online and participate in commerce, and I don’t believe a lot of Floridians really understand the extent to which their private information is being collected, the extent to which their activities online are being tracked, and that’s what this bill seeks to address. The intimate details of someone’s life, often unbeknownst to the customer, are being monetized,” said Bradley.

 

Reach Ed Dean at ed.dean@floridadaily.com.

 

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