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WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D–Washington) introduced privacy legislation that would impose heavy penalties against online platforms and others that abuse people’s personal data. Sen. Cantwell introduced the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act along with cosponsors Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Ed Markey and Brian Schatz.  

The legislation would allow individual users to sue companies that break the new law or engage in other deceptive or harmful practices that violate users’ privacy. Notably, the bill would restrict internet companies and data brokers from processing or transferring data based on an individual’s or group’s “actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, familial status, biometric information, lawful source of income, or disability” in ways that violate people’s civil rights and access to economic opportunities.

Sen. Cantwell’s legislation would also allow people to see the personal information these companies have collected about them. The bill would give internet users the tools to protect and vindicate their rights from abuses of that information.

Free Press Action Senior Policy Counsel Gaurav Laroia made the following statement:

"We commend Senator Cantwell and her cosponsors for introducing legislation that puts the public interest before the interests of the companies that make astronomical profits from selling our data.

“The Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act would restore power over our data to the people. It would allow internet users to sue companies in court, with the potential of very costly consequences for those wrongly exploiting our data. Companies need to know they will face stiff penalties for violating people’s rights. The enforcement provisions in this bill would give any company second thoughts about continuing the unscrupulous practices that have dominated this industry for over two decades.

“The bill would also protect against the discriminatory use of data. In the short history of the internet, we’ve seen countless examples of tech companies and online advertisers using data to restrict individuals and groups from accessing information or opportunities. Senator Cantwell’s legislation would effectively put a stop to such digital redlining.   

“People across the political spectrum have demanded strong privacy protections. Democratic and Republican members of Congress must work together to pass a strong comprehensive privacy law. We hope lawmakers will stand with their constituents and support legislation that imposes strong obligations to protect our personal information and give people the tools to fight companies that abuse user data.”

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