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Florida’s efforts to protect consumer data fail

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ effort to give ownership of mined data back to consumers has encountered a roadblock

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Efforts to minimize the often-unchecked power of Big Tech to use consumers’ personal data has taken a blow in Florida. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Consumer Data Privacy crusade to give ownership of all the data mined by companies back to consumers came to a screeching halt Friday, when the Florida state legislature failed to reach a consensus on where to draw the line in the sand regarding how much of a person’s private data Big Tech should be allowed to gather and repurpose.

“We started an important conversation about data privacy for Floridians and took strong first steps toward common sense changes,” Rep. Fiona McFarland, sponsor of the Florida House version of the legislation, told the Sun-Sentinel.

“Each session there are dozens of important issues that we debate and consider in a short 60-day window. This is the nature of the legislative process, and I look forward to continuing the good work on this complicated issue in the next session,” she said.

Doomed from the beginning

Despite the good intentions, DeSantis’ effort seemed doomed out of the gate. Not only did he have lobbying groups supporting Big Tech to contend with, but lawmakers wrestled with four other major issues. 

One was that the federal government should be addressing the issue, not an individual state. Another issue was whether or not individual Floridians could sue companies like Google and Facebook when they don’t adhere to the law. The third was that in the Florida Senate’s version of the bill, some of the Big Tech companies would’ve been exempted and given safe harbor. The fourth major hurdle was the enormous cost that companies would face in order to comply with the law.

Will techlash continue?

While DeSantis’ may not have gotten this wish, he and Florida are not alone in the fight to protect consumers' private data. California was able to pull off a statewide privacy act, and U.S. Senators like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) have launched legislation starters like the American Data Dissemination Act. 

The day will no doubt come when lawmakers find a way to secure, say, a Facebook user’s data. It’s just a matter of time, but there are already signs that things are turning in the consumer’s favor. As an example, Apple started to distance itself from its Big Tech peers two years ago when the company said it doesn’t want consumers’ personal data. Then, the company followed up on that promise when it rolled out new App Store privacy labels giving users more information about what data apps have on them.

“Our products are iPhones and iPads,” is the message Apple CEO Tim Cook is preaching. “We treasure your data. We wanna help you keep it private and keep it safe. Privacy in itself has become a crisis -- it’s of that proportion.”

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