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US Lawmakers Draft Bill to Create Rules Governing Online Privacy

Thune told reporters after the meeting senators want to review some legislative language that staffers have drafted

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online privacy
FILE - A magnifying glass is held in front of a computer screen in this picture illustration taken in Berlin, May 21, 2013. VOA

U.S. lawmakers drafting a bill to create rules governing online privacy hope to have a discussion draft complete by late May with a Senate committee vote during the summer and are intensifying efforts, but disputes are likely to push that timetable back, according to sources knowledgeable about the matter.

The issue is of huge concern to advertisers and tech companies such as Facebook and Alphabet’s Google, which provide free online services to consumers but derive revenues from advertising targeted at consumers based on preferences identified via data collection.

Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal, Brian Schatz and Maria Cantwell, who are leading the effort to draft the measure along with Republican Senators Jerry Moran, Commerce Committee chairman Roger Wicker and the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Thune, met late Tuesday and could meet again as early as next week.

The six senators involved in the privacy working group met for 45 minutes in Thune’s Capitol Hill office Tuesday evening to discuss the status of the effort and look at issues where senators do not agree and will need to negotiate to resolve.

online privacy
FILE – The Google logo is seen at a start-up campus in Paris, France, Feb. 15, 2018. VOA

“It’s all baby steps,” he said. “Hopefully we can find a path forward.” Thune told reporters after the meeting senators want to review some legislative language that staffers have drafted. “We’re in the early stages,” Thune said. For a big legislative undertaking he said he thought the group was in a “pretty good place” but acknowledged it is “not an easy lift” to win agreement.

Cantwell told reporters on the way into the meeting that she wants to see a bill that provides “meaningful protection for the privacy of individual consumers.”

“This is the start of a conversation, but you have to have a strong law,” she added. “We’re making good progress and I’m very hopeful,” Blumenthal said afterward. The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will hold a hearing on the matter on Wednesday.

Republicans hope to complete a draft of the bill by the end of May so it can be introduced, debated and voted out of committee before Congress leaves for its August recess, according to the sources knowledgeable about the matter.

But that may be delayed if they fail to reach agreement with Democrats who are determined to ensure that the bill does not weaken, and then pre-empt, a California online privacy bill that goes into effect next year.

One dispute that has arisen is whether consumers whose privacy is violated by a company should be allowed to sue that company, with Democrats pushing for this to be allowed, according to one of the sources familiar with the discussions.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation advocacy group has this as one of its highest priorities in data privacy legislation. At least one key Republican disagrees.

online privacy
FILE – U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., speaks to reporters following a town hall meeting, July 6, 2017, in Palco, Kansas. VOA

“Senator Moran has heard serious concerns from the business community, particularly the small business community, that any private right of action would have serious ramifications in their sustainability. The senator is taking these considerations into account as he negotiates federal privacy legislation,” said a representative for the senator in an email statement.

Democratic support for the privacy legislation is key since the measure will also have to pass the U.S. House of Representatives, which Democrats control, to become law. Republicans have a majority in the Senate.

ALSO READ: US Cyber Spies Unmasks Identities of Citizens who in Contact with Foreign Intelligence Targets

California’s law, which will affect any major company with an online presence, requires companies with data on more than 50,000 people to allow consumers to view the data they have collected on them, request deletion of data, and opt out of having the data sold to third parties. Each violation carries a $7,500 fine.

A privacy bill is one of the few pieces of potential legislation that lobbyists believe has a decent chance of becoming law because it is a bipartisan concern and does not cost taxpayers money, according to a source following the matter. (VOA)

Next Story

Facebook to Introduce New Tools to Protect Profile Pictures of Indian Women

These tools have been developed in partnership with multiple companies and Indian Safety Organizations that include Centre for Social Research, Breakthrough, Learning Links Foundation, and Youth Ki Awaaz

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Privacy in Facebook
Facebook user interface. Pixabay
  • It will be in the control of the women as to who can download and share their profile pictures that include their faces
  • Depending on the experience in India, Facebook has plans to introduce this feature to other countries as well
  • According to reports- as per plans, wherever possible, Facebook would also prevent users from taking a screenshot of someone’s profile picture

June 25, 2016: Facebook has recently announced that it is going to introduce new tools and techniques to help the Indian women possess more control over the privacy regarding their profile photos, IANS reported. It will be in the control of the women as to who can download and share their photos that include their faces. This announcement brings the initiative of empowerment of the Indian women, one step further.

Aarati Soman, Product Manager at Facebook, stated in a post on Wednesday, “In our research with people and safety organization in India, we have heard that some women choose not to share profile pictures that include their faces anywhere on the internet because they are concerned about what may happen to their photos,” India TV News reports.

ALSO READ: Ten Hilarious Facebook Memes Cover Photos that will Make You Laugh Out Loud

Depending on the experience in India, Facebook has plans to introduce this feature to other countries as well. Research has shown that adding designs to profile pictures prevents misuse. According to the reports, the social media giant is also gearing up to help people with that feature.

These tools are developed to provide people with more safety online and help them exercise more control on the privacy issues. These tools have been developed in partnership with multiple companies and Indian Safety Organizations that include Centre for Social Research, Breakthrough, Learning Links Foundation, and Youth Ki Awaaz.

Since now, Indian users would notice a guide to include an optional profile picture guard while setting a profile picture.

Soman said further, “Other people will no longer be able to download, share or send your profile picture in a message on Facebook. People you are not friends with on Facebook won’t be able to tag anyone, including themselves, in your profile picture,” India TV News reported.

As per plans, wherever possible, Facebook would also prevent users from taking a screenshot of someone’s profile picture. Presently, this feature is available in androids only. Displaying a blue border and a shield around one’s profile picture as a cue to preventing misuse, is going to be introduced soon.

The company also partnered with an illustrator Jessica Singh, who got inspired from traditional Indian designs of textile including ‘Kantha’ and ‘Bandhni’ and created designs for users to include in their profile pictures.

Soman Says, “Based on preliminary tests, we’ve learned that when someone adds an extra design layer to their profile picture, other people are at least 75 per cent less likely to copy that picture” Soman said. She also added that one can report to Facebook if someone suspects that the profile picture with safeguard designs, is being misused in any way; and then that design can be used to determine whether that should be eliminated from the community.

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC