Senator wants to punish tech CEOs with jail time when companies violate privacy

Posted at 10:09 AM, Nov 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-01 12:37:14-04

Big Tech executives could face jail time in the aftermath of hacks or privacy abuses if a senator has his way.

Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, released a draft bill Thursday that would give the Federal Trade Commission the ability to place harsher penalties on tech companies that violate users’ privacy.

The bill is titled the Consumer Data Protection Act. In it, Wyden proposes a national “Do Not Track” database that allows US consumers to opt-out from websites storing their personal information.

Wyden is targeting companies that make more $50 million and store information on more than 1 million users.

Those companies would also have to submit an “annual data protection report” ensuring compliance with the law. The report must include any regulations they possibly violated and include statements from the company’s CEO, chief privacy officer and chief information security officer.

If an executive intentionally misleads the government, he or she could be held criminally responsible. Under the proposed bill, executives could be fined as much as $5 million and be imprisoned as long as 20 years if they are found guilty.

Wyden also proposes the FTC hire a new chief technologist and 50 new staffers to monitor privacy abuses.

The proposed bill comes at time when Silicon Valley companies are facing pressure for their handling of users’ data.

Last month, Facebook revealed that it exposed information of 50 million users.

Uber recently paid $148 million to settle an investigation accusing the company of intentionally withholding the fact that hackers stole 57 million customers’ personal information in 2016.

Wyden’s Consumer Data Protection Act resembles the General Data Protection Regulation act in the European Union. The GDPR gives people more control over their personal data and forces companies to make sure the way they collect, process and store data is safe.