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WASHINGTON – It seems Senator Ron Wyden is full of warnings for big tech companies of late.

When he’s not sounding those warnings through opinion pieces sounding the bell about the erosion of safe harbor protections under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, he’s raising the alarm more directly through proposed legislation.

Wyden’s latest warning shot comes in the form of a “discussion draft” of a new bill called the “Consumer Data Protection Act.”

In a statement announcing the release of the discussion draft, Wyden came out swinging about the need for legislation which will “create radical transparency into how corporations use and share their data.”

“Today’s economy is a giant vacuum for your personal information,” Wyden said. “Everything you read, everywhere you go, everything you buy and everyone you talk to is sucked up in a corporation’s database. But individual Americans know far too little about how their data is collected, how it’s used and how it’s shared.”

“It’s time for some sunshine on this shadowy network of information sharing,” Wyden added. “My bill creates radical transparency for consumers, gives them new tools to control their information and backs it up with tough rules with real teeth to punish companies that abuse Americans’ most private information.”

When Wyden says his bill introduces “tough rules with real teeth,” he’s not kidding. Section 4 of the bill provides civil penalty authority to the Federal Trade Commission to levy fines “which shall be not more than an amount that is the greater of $50,000 per violation, taken as an aggregate sum of all violations, and 4 percent of the total annual gross revenue of the person, partnership, or corporation for the prior fiscal year.”

Far tougher, though, is the penalty contemplated for corporate officers who falsely certify the annual reports which would be required under the bill. Certifying a report which the officer knows “does not comport with all the requirements set forth” is punishable by up to $5,000,000 in fines (or 25% of the largest amount of annual compensation the officer received during the prior 3-year period) and imprisonment of up to 20 years.


Gene Zorkin has been covering legal and political issues for various adult publications (and under a variety of different pen names) since 2002.