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New Bill Proposes Prison for Execs Misusing Consumer Data

Democrat Senator Ron Wyden released a draft bill this week that proposes big fines for companies misusing the personal information of American consumers, along with significant prison terms for their executives.

The new bill, named the Consumer Data Protection Act of 2018, aims to give consumers control over their data, including how it’s sold or shared, and gives the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the power to issue fines and other penalties.

Sen. Wyden is accepting feedback on the bill. In its current form, the legislation empowers the FTC to establish minimum privacy and security standards, issue fines of up to 4% of an offending company’s annual revenue (similar to the EU’s GDPR), and even prison terms ranging between 10 and 20 years for senior executives. The agency would be given the resources necessary to hire 175 individuals to “police” the market for private data.

The bill also proposes the implementation of a national “do not track” system that allows consumers to stop companies from tracking them on the web. On the other hand, firms would be allowed to charge individuals who want to use their products without having their personal information monetized.

Consumers would also be given the tools to review the information a company has on them and find out whom it has been shared with.

“Today’s economy is a giant vacuum for your personal information – Everything you read, everywhere you go, everything you buy and everyone you talk to is sucked up in a corporation’s database. But individual Americans know far too little about how their data is collected, how it’s used and how it’s shared,” Sen. Wyden stated.

“It’s time for some sunshine on this shadowy network of information sharing. My bill creates radical transparency for consumers, gives them new tools to control their information and backs it up with tough rules with real teeth to punish companies that abuse Americans’ most private information,” he added.

Sen. Wyden has been highly involved in matters related to cyber security. He proposed a bill to force vendors to ensure basic security in IoT devices, he asked the Department of Defense to secure its websites, and urged federal agencies to ditch Flash Player.

Related: Lawmaker Says US Senate, Staff Targeted by State-Backed Hackers

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.