Companies like Facebook and Google, whose business models rely on monetizing user-collected data, may be in for a rough ride.
An expansive new online privacy bill being prepared by the White House plans to restrict the way in which consumer data is gathered and handled–as well as giving new power to the Federal Trade Commission to hand out punishments. Set for release next month, the bill is likely to gain strong opposition in Congress, where the proposed government regulation of the Internet has long been a bone of contention.
The most popular application of user data is for targeted advertising. Most notably, the bill will reportedly require that everyone from Internet companies and online advertisers to mobile app makers can only collect user data for a singular purpose. If they plan to use it in a different context, they’d need to approach the user. Failure to do so would result in a $16,500 penalty, multiplied for each violation that takes place.
While that may sound like small beans for tech giants worth hundreds of billions of dollars, if millions of users were to be involved it could quickly add up. It would also have a considerable impact on smaller tech companies that don’t have Google or Facebook-sized coffers. The assumption is that with such heavy fines, companies are far less likely to abuse data mining in any way that could possibly constitute abuse.
While not as significant as Europe’s “right to be forgotten” law, should President Obama’s privacy bill pass, we can breathe a sigh of relief at Silicon Valley’s privacy-invading efforts being considerably slowed down. And get back to worrying about the NSA spying on us.