On Thursday, privacy hawk Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) introduced a comprehensive privacy bill designed to protect Americans’ personal data and hold big tech corporations and their CEOs accountable for privacy lapses.
The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee shared the full text of the bill that includes steep fines (up to 4% of annual revenue), on the first offense for companies who knowingly mishandle user data, and up to 20 year criminal penalties for senior executives who knowingly lie to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
“Mark Zuckerberg won’t take Americans’ privacy seriously unless he feels personal consequences,” Wyden said in the bill bluntly named Mind Your Own Business Act. “A slap on the wrist from the FTC won’t do the job, so under my bill he’d face jail time for lying to the government.”
Wyden said the new bill, which requires radical transparency about how tech giants share, sell and use consumer data, is based on three basic ideas. “Consumers must be able to control their own private information; companies must provide vastly more transparency about how they use and share our data; and corporate executives need to be held personally responsible when they lie about protecting our personal information.”
Given that Zuckerberg avoided jail time, the likelihood of criminally charging him is rather slim now. That said, Facebook was hit with a massive $5 billion fine – the largest ever imposed on any corporation from a federal agency – for its mishandling of user data following the Cambridge Analytica breach last year. The Securities and Exchange Commission also slapped a $100 million fine on the social network earlier this year for misleading investors over the risks of misusing users’ data.
Whether Wyden’s privacy bill will force new privacy controls and hopefully end our privacy nightmare, remains to be seen. But if the bill does indeed become law, it will prompt tech companies to rethink how they approach data privacy, while giving FTC actual authority to put flagrantly lying executives where they belong, behind bars.