Mind your own business act

‘Mind Your Own Business Act’ a Boon for Users while a Blow to Facebook

Sherin Sebastian
Sherin Sebastian/November 13, 2019

With social media privacy-right concerns being an important issue these days, wouldn’t it be cool if a bill was passed preventing anyone from bothering you about your own personal business?

For the past few years, most people in the US have felt they’ve lost control over their data. Reports of the abuse of personal information have been a growing concern to the Americans.

Without a comprehensive privacy law in place, the burden has fallen completely upon the users to protect themselves, and this has to end.

Of all the privacy debates that took place in the past few years, one consistent complaint is that companies don’t face enough penalties to deter the misuse of user data.

The United States government spent months cracking down on Facebook’s long list of privacy and data protection lapses.

The leading social network platform with more than two billion users worldwide has also been facing inquiries on privacy from authorities in the USA and regulators around the world.

The Federal Trade Commission announced a $5 billion settlement with Facebook in July alleging that the company violated the privacy law by failing to protect data from third parties. It is the largest penalty ever levied against a tech company in FTC history. 

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have been blaming major tech companies on a whole range of issues including data privacy, content moderation and whether they possess too much power over the digital economy.

The introduction of “Mind Your Own Business” 

The U.S legislation recently proposed “Mind Your Own Business Act” that would bring meaningful punishments on top-level executives if their companies are found misusing citizens’ information.

Introduced by the United States Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon, the bill would allow the FTC to impose heavy punishments for privacy violations and empower users to take control of their data. The bill demands organisations to submit annual data protection reports personally approved by the company’s CEO, stating that they followed the data regulations.

The Mind Your Own Business Act of 2019 is the latest iteration of Wyden’s discussion draft that was released last November. Both measures are largely similar, but the new bill provides additional enforcement mechanisms and issues taxes on companies whose executives violate reporting requirements.

This bill is now in the first stage of the legislative process.

It was introduced into Congress on October 17, 2019. It will typically be considered by committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole. In a statement, Wyden said that the legislation is designed to create the “strongest-ever protections” for Americans on their private digital data.

Is Facebook the main Target?

“Mark Zuckerberg won’t take Americans’ privacy seriously unless he feels personal consequences,” Wyden said in a statement. “A slap on the wrist from the FTC won’t do the job.” Wyden has been a critic of Facebook and it seems the MYOB Act is Wyden’s effort to go after Facebook. He added that the Act provides more than a slap on the wrist for serious privacy violations as it imposes imprisonment if lies are told to the government.

Beyond the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the bill would let consumers control how their data is used that too in a single click.

The Federal Trade Commission will have the authority for enforcing the legislation against companies violating privacy protection rules. The new bill closely follows a draft version known as the Consumer Data Protection Act, which was released for discussion on 1 November 2018.

Wyden’s bill is based on three basic ideas:

  • Users must be able to control their own private information
  • Companies must provide vastly more transparency about how they use and share users data
  • Corporate executives need to be held personally responsible when they lie about protecting our personal information

Users would have the right to demand details of any data held about them, where the company got it, and what it is being used for. Companies are required to inform their customers what data they collect and what is the purpose of collecting it.

The bill also requires companies to provide a site that enables consumers to opt-out of any personal data collection either through an application programming interface (API) or a web form.

The proposed bill applies to the companies that hold data of more than 50 million customers or over a million people if they make a revenue of more than $1 billion.

If the company certifies false reports intentionally, then the court can fine them up to $5 million or a quarter of the largest revenue they got from the company over the last three years. They can also face up to 20 years of imprisonment.

The bill empowers the FTC to:

  • Implement minimum privacy and cybersecurity standards
  • Charge fines up to 4% of annual income on the first offence for companies and
  • 10 -20-year criminal penalties for senior executives who intentionally lie to the FTC.
  • The bill proposes a plan to create a “Do Not Track” system for users to establish access, deletion and correction rights. Consumers can warn companies and online advertisers to stop collecting and sharing their personal data. Also, this system will enable consumers to review what personal information companies have on them and who it’s being shared with. The companies should offer this service for a reasonable fee, especially considering low-income consumers. Those who meet the eligibility criteria of the U.S. government’s lifeline program cannot be charged under Wyden’s bill.
  • Give consumers the right to ask details of any personal data collected by companies and to know with whom it has been shared or sold.
  • Increase the number of staff by 175 to analyse the consumer’s private data
  • Require companies to evaluate the algorithms that process consumer data to determine their effect on accuracy, fairness, bias, discrimination, privacy and security.

Facebook has not yet commented about Wyden’s bill. The bill is just being introduced and it has a long way to go before it’s actually signed into law. There is a lot of confusion about how companies are going to go about handling our data.  It would be great if Wyden’s bill moves federal regulation of internet privacy in the right direction.

We can only hope that Wyden’s bill can take the world of social media privacy by storm this year.

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