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Congress Considers Bill That Would Let Americans Opt-Out Of Targeted Advertising.

One of online advertising’s strongest selling points against broadcasters could be undermined if a bipartisan effort in Congress proves successful. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the chairs of the Senate and House Commerce Committees, respectively, have jointly introduced a bill that would allow individuals to opt out of targeted advertising. 

What they have named the American Privacy Rights Act is designed to give Americans more control over their personal data, including putting limits on a company that wants to transfer or sell their data. It would require companies to allow people to gain access to the data that tech companies have collected about them, and to correct and delete what they find. The bill would also offer stricter protections for sensitive data by requiring affirmative express consent before sensitive data can be transferred to a third party. Individuals could also opt-out of data processing if a company changes its privacy policy.

“This landmark legislation gives Americans the right to control where their information goes and who can sell it,” Rodgers said. “It reins-in Big Tech by prohibiting them from tracking, predicting, and manipulating people’s behaviors for profit without their knowledge and consent. Americans overwhelmingly want these rights, and they are looking to us, their elected representatives, to act.If passed, the American Privacy Rights Act would minimize the data that companies can collect, keep, and use about people, of any age, to what companies actually need to provide them products and services. It would also allow individuals to opt out of a company’s use of algorithms to make decisions about housing, employment, healthcare, credit opportunities, education, insurance, or access to places of public accommodation. And it would give individuals the right to sue bad actors who violate their privacy rights—and recover money for damages when they’ve been harmed. 

“A federal data privacy law must do two things: it must make privacy a consumer right, and it must give consumers the ability to enforce that right – our bill does just that,” Cantwell said.

The federal law would eliminate the patchwork of state laws by setting one national privacy standard. It also authorizes the Federal Trade Commission, states, and consumers to enforce against violations. 

Supporters say the effort is targeted toward big tech companies, carving out small businesses, who are not selling their customers’ personal information, to make them exempt from the requirements of the bill. They include a mandatory annual review of algorithms to ensure they do not put individuals at risk of harm or discrimination.

How far the bill gets in an election year when time is short remains to be seen. Some lawmakers say the discussion draft will get the conversations rolling, but there are areas where they would like to see even tougher restrictions put on big tech companies.

“There are some key areas where I think we can strengthen the bill, especially children’s privacy. I’ve long said that you cannot meaningfully address comprehensive privacy reform without including heightened protections for our nation’s young people,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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