Press Releases

DelBene Unveils Proposal to Regulate Consumer Privacy in Financial Times Op-Ed

Today, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-WA) announced that she has drafted legislation that would change the way individuals’ private information is protected. In an op-ed published by the Financial Times, Rep. DelBene outlined her proposal, which has already received valuable input from consumer advocacy groups and tech companies.

“As a former Microsoft executive and a former chief executive of a technology company, I understand that consumers, policymakers and the private sector share responsibility for protecting personal information from those that want to use it for nefarious purposes,” said DelBene. “I also know how important it is to set good global norms before someone else sets them for us. The United States is an unequivocal leader in tech innovation, yet behind other countries when it comes to protecting consumer privacy.

She added, “We’ve all become so dependent on technology, and it is exciting to see what the future may hold. But we’re at a point where consumers desperately need a clear understanding of what happens to their data, and the chance to have greater control. Rather than having to comb through confusing policies and figure out how to opt out of highly invasive settings, customers should be able to expect privacy as the default.”

DelBene’s proposal would:

·       Help people by ensuring all users are presented with companies’ privacy policies in “plain English.”

·       Require companies to allow users to “opt in” before companies can use consumers’ most sensitive private information in ways the public might not expect.

·       Give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) a stronger hand to bring companies into compliance with the “plain English” and “opt in” requirements.

·       Require companies to obtain privacy audits by a neutral third party and submit the results to the FTC every two years.

“In the 21st century, it is impossible to meaningfully participate in society without sharing our personal information with third parties,” said Allie Bohm, Policy Counsel, Public Knowledge. She continued, “It has become increasingly clear that the third parties with whom we share our personal information are not always good stewards of that data. They often collect more information than we imagine, and they take advantage of the fact that few consumers actually read the terms of service by burying terms that consumers would likely never agree to if they had read the policies. In fact, a Carnegie Mellon study found that it would take 76 work days to read all of the privacy policies one encounters in a year -- and it’s just simply unrealistic to expect consumers to do this.

“Representative DelBene's discussion draft would begin to alleviate these problems by requiring third parties to obtain affirmative, opt-in consent before collecting, storing, processing, or using personal information. Importantly, the draft also requires that third parties make their privacy policies concise, accessible, and easily comprehensible. Critically, it gives the FTC rulemaking authority to make these requirements real and ensure that they keep pace with technology. The DelBene discussion draft is a step forward and a positive contribution to the debate on privacy in the digital age,” said Bohm.

Rep. DelBene represents Washington state’s first congressional district. She is a member of the Ways and Means Committee and the Budget Committee. She is co-chair of the Digital Trade Caucus, co-chair of the Women's High Tech Caucus and co-chair of the Internet of Things Caucus.