Fresh off the success of passing an acceptable net neutrality bill, it seems that the U.S. government is pushing for more legislation.

The proposed bill, introduced by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.), would require accountability and transparency for data brokers who collect and sell personal information about consumers.

"The bill would shine a necessary light on the murky world of data brokers who profit by selling information about us we often don’t even know they have, hold them accountable and give consumers meaningful protection and control over their data," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director.

Known as S. 668, the Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act would enable the U.S. government to tell businesses that collect data to stop sharing or selling it for marketing purposes.

"I believe Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, including the right to determine whether information about their personal lives should be available for sale to the highest bidder," said Franken. The former comedian turned politician is the top Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. The bill, introduced March 5, would require the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to curate and cultivate rules for a centralized website for consumers. As a next step, it will be sent to committee for discussion.

If it is passed, American citizens would be able to view a comprehensive list of data brokers covered by the bill and find information on their consumer rights.

"Data brokers are a shadow industry of surreptitious data collection that has amassed covert dossiers on hundreds of millions of Americans," Markey, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. "Data brokers seem to believe that there is no such thing as privacy."

The proposed new Data Act is similar to the 2014 bill that failed to pass in the Senate. Organizations such as the Direct Marketing Association, a trade group representing data brokers, believes that the legislation isn’t needed.

Last year alone, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee all investigated the data broker industry. Critics of data collection industry players often fail to highlight specific concerns, and the data broker industry continues to operate largely without regulation. President Barack Obama attempted to shine some needed light on the matter of data collection by offering his own proposal for a consumer privacy bill of rights, which was batted down and criticized by several privacy groups.

Photo: Veni Markovski | Flickr

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