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Tech Industry

Sen. Marco Rubio is latest lawmaker to propose federal privacy law

Rubio introduced his take on privacy regulations Wednesday.

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Mark Zuckerberg addresses Data Privacy at Facebook's annual developer event in 2018.

James Martin/CNET

US lawmakers are pondering the best way to regulate consumer privacy, and they've put forward several bills in the past few months. Now Sen. Marco Rubio is adding his to the list.

Rubio, a Republican from Florida, introduced on Wednesday the American Data Dissemination Act (PDF), saying in a press release that it would protect consumers while allowing businesses to innovate. What's more, the bill "will protect small businesses and startups while ensuring that consumers are provided with overdue rights and protections," Rubio said in a statement.

The bill follows one introduced in December by a group of 15 Democratic senators that has tech industry support, and another drafted by Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, in November. That one would penalize CEOs with jail time for lying in transparency reports required by the bill. In September, Rep. Suzan DelBene introduced a privacy bill to the US House of Representatives.

Silicon Valley companies have been asking for federal privacy legislation since June, when California passed the country's strictest data privacy law. With the implementation of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation in May, the industry is already adjusting to tighter controls on how it uses consumer data.

Rubio's bill would put it up to the US Federal Trade Commission to draft privacy regulations that would then be approved by Congress. The regulations would be based on guidelines established in the Privacy Act of 1974.

In an op-ed published Wednesday in The Hill, Rubio said the legislation was necessary in light of the tech industry's vast power over our personal data, and that the patchwork of state laws in effect today is inadequate. That's made clear by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other incidents where consumer data was mishandled, he said.

"Tech industry leaders should encourage responsible legislation that provides clear rules for companies to operate under and prevents future scandals," Rubio said.

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