WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) joined U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and a group of 19 senators in reintroducing legislation to protect people’s personal data online. The Data Care Act would require websites, apps, and other online providers to take responsible steps to safeguard personal information and stop the misuse of users’ data.

We constantly hear reports of online companies misusing or exploiting data they collect from their users, and most people don’t realize just how much personal information these websites and apps can access. This legislation would ensure these companies are held to a higher standard that prioritizes protecting consumer data and give users some peace of mind,” said Murphy.

“Websites and apps that collect data from their users need to be protecting this data, not using it to harm them,” said Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. “Doctors and lawyers are required to protect people’s data, and our bill will help make sure online companies aren’t exploiting it, either.” 

Doctors, lawyers, and bankers are legally required to exercise special care to protect their clients and not misuse their information. While online companies also hold personal and sensitive information about the people they serve, they are not required to protect consumers’ data. This leaves users in a vulnerable position; they are expected to understand the information they give to providers and how it is being used – an unreasonable expectation for even the most tech-savvy consumer. By establishing an explicit duty for online providers, Americans can trust that their online data is protected and used in a responsible way.

The Data Care Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Angus King (I-Maine), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

The Data Care Act establishes reasonable duties that will require providers to protect user data and will prohibit providers from using user data to their detriment:

1.      Duty of Care – Must reasonably secure individual identifying data and promptly inform users of data breaches that involve sensitive information;

2.      Duty of Loyalty – May not use individual identifying data in ways that harm users;

3.      Duty of Confidentiality – Must ensure that the duties of care and loyalty extend to third parties when disclosing, selling, or sharing individual identifying data;

4.      Federal and State Enforcement – A violation of the duties will be treated as a violation of an FTC rule with fine authority. States may also bring civil enforcement actions, but the FTC can intervene. States and the FTC may go after both first- and third-party data collectors; and

5.      Rulemaking Authority – FTC is granted rulemaking authority to implement the Act.

The full text of the bill is available here.