Legislation Aims to Crack Down on Data Brokers

Published On: March 10, 2022

There is a multi-billion dollar global market for consumer data. Every day, data brokers collect, aggregate, and package our personal attributes as a commodity to sell to third parties–often without our consent.

Senator Josh Becker is aiming to curb illegal data collection with Senate Bill 1059, according to a recent press release.

SB 1059 will make annual registration and reporting requirements stricter for data brokers and doubles penalties for data traffickers who break the law by failing to disclose data breaches or failing to report information collection from minors.

According to the Bill itself, existing law imposes a $100 fine per day for data brokers that fail to register with the Attorney General. SB 1059 ups the fine to $200 per day and would make other technical changes to the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. 

Most notably, the Bill would broaden the definition of “data brokers” to include businesses that are knowingly sharing information. 

Registered data brokers would also have to carefully instruct consumers on how to opt out, delete, correct, or limit personal information. 

“Just because we live and work in the Digital Age does not mean we waive our rights to privacy,” said Senator Becker, D-Peninsula, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Cybersecurity and Identity Theft Prevention. “Our personal information is a prized commodity for data brokers. They provide third parties the means to profile and target us for ads, sales pitches and other content, and to follow our behavior, including tracking us in real time to specific locations. The breadth of information data brokers acquire is staggering.”

In recent years, data brokers have become more brazen in their invasive methods. One data broker sold location data from Muslim prayer apps to military contractors while other brokers sold location data to immigration enforcement during the Trump Administration.

Several consumer advocacy and privacy groups including Consumer Reports, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Californians for Consumer Privacy and Consumer Watchdog have voiced their support for SB 1059.

“Data brokers collect millions of data points about us to build invasive profiles used to target us with targeted ads or worse — determine interest rates on mortgages and credit cards, eligibility for housing, and deny people jobs, EPIC Deputy Director Caitriona Fitzgerald said. “SB 1059 will shed light on these exploitive practices by requiring transparency about which data brokers are buying, aggregating, selling and trading our personal information.”


About the Author: Will Keys

Will Keys writes about technology issues for the GovReport. He is a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at will at govreport.org