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Rep. Suzan DelBene at the GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

This week, Rep. Suzan DelBene, a Democrat from Washington state, reintroduced a bill that would enact federal data privacy protections for Americans.

“As a former tech entrepreneur with experience in this field, I’m aware of the critical moment we’re facing,” DelBene said in a statement.

Here are the key provisions of the bill:

  • Companies can’t collect sensitive private information in ways consumers might not expect without getting their consent
  • Data sharing agreements must be disclosed, including the purpose of that sharing
  • Privacy policies must be written in “plain English”
  • Companies must submit biannual privacy audits, conducted by neutral third, parties to the FTC
  • The FTC can issue fines and make rules regarding privacy
  • Attorneys general are empowered to take legal action when companies violate these rules

The background: DelBene introduced similar legislation at the end of the last Congressional session. The former Microsoft executive sat down with GeekWire to discuss her privacy push between sessions at the GeekWire Summit in 2018.

Big picture: DelBene’s is one of several data privacy bills under consideration in Congress right now. Once an obscure issue, privacy is now top of mind thanks to high-profile data scandals like Facebook’s data sharing arrangement with the political organization Cambridge Analytica. Local legislatures, like California and Washington’s, are adding a sense of urgency for a federal privacy law by pursuing state-level protection.

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