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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

Easing Fears in Wake of Data Breach Should be Priority, Says Researcher

Two of the studies surveyed how consumers reacted to the scope of a data breach

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Easing fears in the wake of a data breach should be a priority, the researchers said. Pixabay

Once a data breach is reported, people who are fearful quickly become sensitive towards the size and scope of the breach than those who get angry, finds a study led by Indian-origin researchers.

The findings also extend to the stock market where a company’s stock price can be influenced by the size of the breach when the news coverage emphasizes fear, rather than anger.

“The emotions of fear and anger will elicit different reactions. In the wake of a data breach, we wanted to explore those different reactions and see if people acted to protect themselves or directed feelings toward those responsible,” said Subimal Chatterjee, distinguished professor in marketing at Binghamton University in New York.

Chatterjee partnered with Sumantra Sarkar, assistant professor of management information systems and others to conduct three studies to get to their findings. Two of the studies surveyed how consumers reacted to the scope of a data breach.

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They found that only the customers who felt fear after a breach were sensitive to the size and scope of the breach, while scope didn’t matter to angry consumers. Pixabay

They found that only the customers who felt fear after a breach were sensitive to the size and scope of the breach, while scope didn’t matter to angry consumers. “Fearful consumers were sensitive to knowing, for example, if the breach only affected 100 customers or 10 million customers, and we found that the larger the scope, the larger the reaction,” said Chatterjee.

Meanwhile, angry consumers didn’t care if it was 10 customers or 10 million customers. “Their focus wasn’t on the scope. They were directing their focus and anger on the perpetrator,” Chatterjee added.

A third study examined 12,000 news stories about data breaches. Testing for keywords that suggested either a fearful or angry response in the coverage, the researchers then compared the findings to stock prices for affected companies at the time of the coverage.

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They also recommend being extra careful about how you communicate the scope of the data breach, as fearful customers will be very sensitive to the size of breaches. Pixabay

They found that the stock market reacts similarly to how consumers react: Fear makes the stock market sensitive to the scope of a data breach, while anger makes the stock market insensitive to the scope of a data breach.

ALSO READ: Researchers Develop Way to Fight against Bacterial Infections using Electricity

Easing fears in the wake of a data breach should be a priority, the researchers said. They also recommend being extra careful about how you communicate the scope of the data breach, as fearful customers will be very sensitive to the size of breaches.

“If you have 500 million customers that were affected by a breach, but it only represents around 16 per cent of your customer base, you may want to focus on that smaller number in your communications to minimize the threat to fearful customers,” Chatterjee noted in the paper published in the Journal of Business Research. (IANS)