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Jennifer Bradley

Renzo Downey - March 22, 2021

The bill would give consumers say over how their data is collected and used.

Legislation to protect internet users’ data passed its first Senate panel Monday.

The measure (SB 1734), carried by Fleming Island Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley, would give consumers the right to control how their personal online data is shared and sold. That data helps businesses know more about individual consumers and helps make things like targeted ads possible.

The Internet’s landscape has shifted rapidly, according to Bradley, who called the internet today a one-way street of intimate information. Companies achieve financial success by selling someone else’s data without their consent, she told the Senate Commerce Committee.

“This bill pulls the curtain back on that industry,” Bradley said. “It shifts the balance of power back to the consumers. It puts the people of Florida in the driver’s seat to make knowing and consensual decisions about how and where their information is being used.”

The proposal is a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, announced as part of their plans this Session to combat “Big Tech,” both in social media and on consumer privacy.

Sarasota Republican Rep. Fiona McFarland‘s companion measure (HB 969) is scheduled for its penultimate House hearing Tuesday. Previous committees have approved that version unanimously.

The social media half of the package has drawn opposition, mainly from Democrats. Like McFarland, Bradley distanced her bill from the bill to regulate social media companies.

The bill would require businesses to publish a privacy policy and tell consumers, if asked, what data they have on them, how they got it, and how they use it. Consumers could ask to have that information deleted or corrected.

Consumers could opt out of having their data sold or shared. Minors would have to opt in for data sharing.

The bill would add biometric data to the list of protected information. That builds off of Sprowls’ bill, which DeSantis signed into law last year, making Florida the first state to guarantee DNA privacy for customers’ life, disability, and long-term care insurance.

 Like McFarland’s bill, Florida Justice Reform Institute President William Large feared the Senate bill’s broad language on personal information could lead to potential class action lawsuits. Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo attempted to make it less broad to throw businesses a bone.

“We’re in the midst of a recovery, trying to recover, trying to get businesses to rehire people,” Taddeo said, adding that the bill would likely be costly to businesses.”

In California, that state’s data privacy provisions cost businesses $55 billion, according to one estimate she cited.

However, Bradley insisted that now, if not yesterday, is especially the time to protect people’s online information.

“Honestly, I think the internet and our businesses will be more successful if consumers have a sense of trust about how their information is going to be used and more willing to engage,” she said.

Banks, which are already highly regulated, have requested they receive a carveout from the bill’s provisions.

Bradley said she is still working on the effective date for the bill.

Bradley’s version next heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee. McFarland’s version is scheduled in the House Civil Justice and Property Rights Subcommittee Tuesday.