If your eyes were glued to your screen as you watched the soothing back-and-forth between a bunch of elderly white men pretending to understand the internet and a contrite, broad-foreheaded, moon-faced Mark Zuckerberg, you might have missed the only real piece of substantial news to come out of Congress in the past few hours.
That is: proposed legislation that could limit Facebook and its ilk more than any before it.
Today, senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a piece of legislation called Customer Online Notification for Stopping Edge-provider Network Transgressions (CONSENT Act — way catchier, right?).
The legislation would require companies that mine user data to sell to advertisers, such as Facebook and Google (both are mentioned by name in the press release but not in the legislation itself), to allow users to opt-in to sharing of personal information and develop “reasonable security practices,” according to a press release. Companies would have to notify users if their data was collected or shared, or if their information was hacked.
It would fall to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce the law, which, as The Verge notes, would make the agency even more powerful, especially in the realm of online advertising, over which the FTC already has jurisdiction.
American legislators seem to be heeding consumers’ growing demands for legislation to protect their privacy online to rival the laws that will go into effect in the European Union this year.
It’s not yet clear when the CONSENT Act might go to a vote.
Senators Markey and Blumenthal don’t seem all that impressed by Zuckerberg’s apology tour. They’ve decided the time has come to stand up for users who were shocked by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and still find themselves with little say in (or, often, knowledge about) what kind of their own data companies are using to make money and share with others.
“The startling consumer abuses by Facebook and other tech giants necessitate swift legislative action rather than overdue apologies and hand-wringing,” Blumenthal said in the press release. “Our privacy bill of rights is built on a simple philosophy that will return autonomy to consumers: affirmative informed consent. Consumers deserve the opportunity to opt in to services that might mine and sell their data – not to find out their personal information has been exploited years later.”