Lawmakers aim to ban profiteering from piracy of Americans’ privacy

Pennsylvania Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon

Pennsylvania Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon recently introduced the Health and Location Data Protection Act to ban data brokers from selling some of the most sensitive data available about everyday Americans: their health data and location data.

Joining Scanlon, who represents suburban Philadelphia, as co-sponsors of the consumer privacy rights bill are Reps. Anna Eshoo, Pramila Jayapal, Nydia Velázquez, Adriano Espaillat, Rashida Tlaib, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Diana DeGette,

The lawmakers said Congress must ensure the protection citizens need now that they are without the right to privacy, which was abolished when the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs Wade.

Largely unregulated by federal law, data brokers gather intensely personal information, such as location data and search history, and then sell that data to virtually any willing buyer, reaping massive profits.

Data gathered by brokers have been used to circumvent the Fourth Amendment, out LGBTQ+ Americans, stalk and harass individuals, and jeopardize the safety of people who visit abortion clinics for health care.

Some brokers have even been caught selling the cellphone-based location data of people visiting abortion clinics, risking the safety and security of women seeking basic health care.

“Americans deserve to feel confident their most sensitive data is treated with care, not recklessly exploited for profit,” said Scanlon. “But data brokers remain free from federal regulation to collect highly personal data from seemingly innocuous sources and sell it to the highest bidder without the consumer’s consent or knowledge.”

“In light of extremist Republicans’ attempts to ban or criminalize abortion and other critical health care, clear and strong rules of the road for this $200 billion industry are urgently needed.,” said Scanlon, who said the measure would “rein in giant data brokers’ unscrupulous practice of trading on Americans’ vulnerabilities.”

“Every day in America, data brokers collect and sell an unseemly amount of intensely personal data, often without consumers’ knowledge,” said Eshoo. “In a post-Roe world, it’s more important than ever that this sensitive data is protected.”

“People’s most private, personal data should remain private, plain and simple. And yet, data brokers have put profits above people’s right to privacy by selling sensitive data. Enough is enough,” said Jayapal. “In a world without Roe, protecting privacy has never been more crucial or more important to the safety and well-being of millions.”

“The location data and health data of countless of my constituents are not up for sale or open-source information,” said Espaillat. “It is unfathomable that regulations limiting the access and methods of data brokers have been limited.”

“This legislation is timely and will ensure robust enforcement to protect consumer rights and keep information from falling into the wrong hands,” said Espaillat.

“For far too long, data brokers have been selling data from millions of Americans, which is not only dangerous, but an egregious breach in privacy,” said Velázquez.

The Health and Location Data Protection Act would:

  • Ban data brokers from selling or transferring location data and health data and require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to promulgate rules to implement the law within 180 days while making exceptions for HIPAA-compliant activities, protected First Amendment speech, and validly authorized disclosures.
  • Ensure robust enforcement of the bill’s provisions by empowering the FTC, state attorneys general, and injured persons to sue to enforce the provisions of the law.
  • Provide $1 billion in funding to the Federal Trade Commission over the next decade to carry out its work, including the enforcement of this law.

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