Federal lawmakers unveiled a sweeping new plan Sunday aiming to institute new data privacy and collection rules that include requiring tech platforms to reveal their data collection and sharing practices, grant new data ownership and transport rights to individuals and require that privacy policy statements be shared in clear and easy-to-understand language.

The bipartisan “American Privacy Rights Act”, proposed by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., comes after years of wrangling and dozens of congressional hearings that have led to little substantive change in federal oversight of troves of individual user data collected, leveraged and distributed by online companies.

The authors say the draft legislation “sets clear, national data privacy rights and protections for Americans, eliminates the existing patchwork of state comprehensive data privacy laws and establishes robust enforcement mechanisms to hold violators accountable, including a private right of action for individuals.”

Provisions of the current proposal, which is being characterized as a “discussion draft” and subject to modifications, would limit the type of data companies can collect, store and use on individuals “beyond what is necessary, proportionate, and limited to provide or maintain” the collectors’ product or service offering. Users would also be granted new rights to request their data files from collecting entities, as well as information about where the data was sourced, how it was collected and where it has been shared. Stipulations also include the right for users to opt out of targeted advertising, delete their data and remove their information from the files of data brokers that function as user information resellers.

“This landmark legislation gives Americans the right to control where their information goes and who can sell it,” Rodgers said in a statement Sunday. “It reins in Big Tech by prohibiting them from tracking, predicting and manipulating people’s behaviors for profit without their knowledge and consent. Americans overwhelmingly want these rights, and they are looking to us, their elected representatives, to act.”

States look for solutions

In the void left by lack of Congressional action on digital data privacy issues, many state legislatures, including Utah’s, have taken action in an attempt to provide some data collection accountability and regulatory framework. Last month, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed three bills passed in the 2024 session that include data privacy provisions in the areas of social media use by minors, motor vehicle data collection and third-party access to individual health information.

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When it comes to policing Big Tech, Utahns say feds, not state lawmakers, should be in charge

But do state-level rules on internet-based companies, whose operations span state and national boundaries, represent the best level of government to be engaging in oversight of technology platforms?

In statewide polling conducted last year by the Deseret News in partnership with the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, Utahns answered the question with a resounding “no”.

When it comes to what level of government should determine how technology companies are regulated, the poll found 61% of those surveyed believe it is a federal government responsibility, 18% said regulation should fall to state government and 11% said that government should not play a role in regulating technology companies.

A citizen call for regulation

That said, a plurality of Utah voters who participated in the polling do believe that more regulation is in order when it comes to Big Tech operations.

When asked, “Do you think the government should increase, decrease or not change its regulation of technology companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google?”, 47% of poll participants said regulation should be increased, 12% believe it should be decreased, 28% said the current level of regulation should not change and 13% of respondents didn’t know.

In a shared statement, Cantwell and Rodgers said they believe their proposal strikes the right balance to earn Congressional approval of a first-ever comprehensive national data rights and privacy standard.

“This bipartisan, bicameral draft legislation is the best opportunity we’ve had in decades to establish a national data privacy and security standard that gives people the right to control their personal information,” Cantwell and Rodgers said. “This landmark legislation represents the sum of years of good faith efforts in both the House and Senate. It strikes a meaningful balance on issues that are critical to moving comprehensive data privacy legislation through Congress.”