In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Senate approved legislation designed to give consumers more transparency and control of personal data collected about them by companies on the Internet.
The bill, approved after more than three hours of debate, gives consumers the right to view or delete data and opt out of its sale or targeted advertising. It requires certain companies to disclose and minimize the data they collect. The bill also restricts targeted advertising to children and sale of their data.
“Technology advances faster than our ability to regulate it and this will be a constant process to make sure we’re getting it right,” said Sen. James Maroney, a Milford Democrat who chairs the General Law Committee. “But the protection of our consumers and the Connecticut residents is a worthy endeavor.”
If approved by the House and signed by the governor, the bill would add Connecticut to a small but growing list of states wading into the complex and changing realm of data regulation. California, Colorado, and Virginia have all made different efforts to regulate the complicated new industry.
Senate Democrats in Connecticut have sought to pass some form for the concept for the last several years. They approved a different version as part of an 800-page budget implementer last session only to see its provisions removed by the House, where Democrats and Republicans said the language lacked support.
This year’s bill had support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the Senate. The bill generally applies to companies with data on at least 100,000 Connecticut residents but excludes data generated solely by processing payment transactions. The bill casts a wider net for businesses that generate significant revenue from selling data. Those companies must comply with its terms if they possess information on at least 25,000 Connecticut residents.
The legislation also exempts certain industry sectors. Government agencies, nonprofits, schools, financial institutions, and health care providers need not comply with its regulations.
Several Republicans praised the bill as well as Maroney’s willingness to work towards a bipartisan solution to a complicated issue.
“This is sort of the Goldilocks [zone],” Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said. “It’s not too hard, not too soft, it’s just right … That’s what we need for our citizenry. That’s what we need for our consumers so that they know what’s being taken from them as far as data.”
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff said the bill goes further to protect children than similar policies adopted in other states. Duff said it had fallen to individual states to develop protections for consumers online as the federal government has so far declined to act on the issue.
“We have a crisis of privacy in our country right now,” Duff said. “People at this point have no expectation of any privacy anymore and there is something fundamentally wrong with that.”