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Bill aiming to protect Floridians’ data nears final passage

Bill aiming to protect Floridians’ data nears final passage
Bill aiming to protect Floridians’ data nears final passage

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In the waning days of session, lawmakers are making a final push to pass new privacy protections for Floridians.

The bill’s sponsors say the legislation is aimed at giving Floridians more say in how their data is used, but critics say the bill would be much more extensive.

The Florida Privacy Protection Act would impose new regulations on companies that handle the data of 100,000 or more people and make 50 percent or more of their profits from selling or sharing that data. It would require these companies to let consumers know what data is being collected and sold and give them a way to opt out.

According to State Rep. Fiona McFarland, the House sponsor, companies couldn’t deny you service if you choose to not share your data with them. That means companies would have to find another way to make up for lost revenue, likely by offering paid subscriptions.

“If your streaming music service has decided that the value of your data is worth $5 a month to them, and by you opting out of them using your data, they can then charge you that $5 per month,” McFarland said.

The obvious targets of the legislation are big tech companies, but State Sen. Jeff Brandes said he’s concerned they wouldn’t be the only ones impacted.

“You’re going to catch businesses like Publix and Walt Disney,” Brandes said.

Brandes said a similar law in California is estimated to have cost businesses $65 billion.

“We can’t be piecemealing, like a patchwork quilt, privacy laws around this country and expecting businesses to try to comply,” he said.

McFarland contends the cost of doing nothing about companies’ data collection outweighs the risks involved.

“Our right to liberty, to make the decisions for ourselves as informed consumers, is just not happening when it comes to how our data is treated online,” McFarland said.

The House and Senate still have to come to an agreement on a final product. The House version allows individuals to sue companies if their privacy rights are violated, while the Senate version leaves enforcement up to the Attorney General.

The Senate amended the bill on Wednesday, which means both chambers still have to vote on a final product before session wraps up on Friday.