Online privacy bill requiring informed consent for biometrics use proposed in U.S. Senate

Online privacy bill requiring informed consent for biometrics use proposed in U.S. Senate

A digital privacy bill has been introduced into the U.S. Senate which would require businesses to obtain permission from citizens to collect and share biometrics and other sensitive data, and grant individuals a right of private action if companies fail to do so, CNBC reports.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would gain new oversight powers to enforce the protections, which would also include a right to request information held by companies, and then to correct it or request its deletion. Companies would also be required to collect only information needed for their business functions. A new bureau would be created within the FTC to enforce digital privacy rules.

The proposed “Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act” (COPRA) is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled upper house, however, having been tabled by Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, the Senate Commerce Committee’s top Democrat, let alone be signed into law. The Commerce Committee is largely responsible for issues in the tech industry, which CNBC says makes the bill significant. It is co-sponsored by three other Democratic Senators, Ed Markey, Amy Klobuchar, and Brian Schatz.

Mississipi Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican, said the proposed legislation indicates Democrats’ position, but would need bipartisan support to pass.

“I am committed to continuing to work with the ranking member and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get a bill that can get across the finish line,” CNBC quotes Wicker as saying. “I expect that we will have a bill to discuss at next week’s hearing.”

The bill does not pre-empt state legislation, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), but state attorneys would also be empowered to enforce the federal law. Executives of companies would have to report to the FTC on their internal controls and reporting structures.

The proposal follows the introduction of numerous bills to regulate biometrics in the current session, including a recent bi-partisan proposal to set new rule for facial recognition use by law enforcement.

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