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Senate committee seeks comments about consumer data privacy

Gavel and Law Book

Most businesses, including furniture retailers, collect information about shoppers. Now, Congress is considering legislation to regulate the use and protection of consumer data

The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs is asking for comment to help it craft a possible bill. 

“I am particularly interested in what data is contained in modern consumer reports, how the information is gathered, who compiles it, how it is protected, how consumers can access it and correct it, and how privacy is respected,” Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said in a news release

“Congress should make it easy for consumers to find out who is collecting personal information about them, and give consumers power over how that data is used, stored and distributed,” ranking member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) added. 

The California legislature in 2018 passed a state law, the California Consumer Privacy Act, which applies to businesses with annual gross revenues of more than $25 million or other criteria. It takes effect in 2020. 

The California law covers not just personal data but “commercial information,” which includes “records of personal property, products or services purchased, obtained or considered, or other purchasing or consuming histories or tendencies.” It gives consumers the right to demand that businesses delete this information. 

If other states enact their own laws, businesses that interact with customers across regions or throughout the country could face conflicting regulations, so a federal approach that preempts state laws is preferred by many national business organizations. But any law should strike a balance between privacy rights, security concerns and the responsible use of customer information by businesses. 

Senator Mike Crapo
Senator Mike Crapo

The Senate committee is asking stakeholders to comment on what could be done through legislation, regulation or best practices: 

1)   to give consumers more control over and enhance the protection of consumer financial data, and ensure that consumers are notified of breaches in a timely and consistent manner;  

2)  to ensure that financial regulators and private financial companies (including third parties that share information with financial regulators and private financial companies) provide adequate disclosure to consumers about the information that is collected about them and for what purposes;   

3)  to give consumers control over how financial regulators and private financial companies use their data;   

4)  to protect consumer data and to make sure that information contained in a credit file is accurate;   

5)  so that a consumer can easily identify and exercise control of data that are (a) collected and shared by data brokers and other firms and (b) used as a factor in establishing a consumer’s eligibility for credit, insurance, employment or other purposes.   

Responses should be sent by March 15 to submissions@banking.senate.gov.  Responses will be made public on the Banking Committee’s website.