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Democrats’ new online privacy bill heralded as chance to build ‘alternative road to a digital future’

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“This legislation is a game-changer,” says Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff, whose latest book warns of “surveillance capitalism.”

Backed by progressive privacy advocates, a pair of California House Democrats who represent Silicon Valley introduced sweeping legislation on Tuesday that aims to strengthen online user protections and increase accountability for major technology companies—in part by creating a new federal agency.

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“Our legislation ensures that every American has control over their own data, companies are held accountable, and the government provides tough but fair oversight.”
—Rep. Anna Eshoo

The Online Privacy Act of 2019, H.R. 4978 (pdf), is sponsored by Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren.

“Our country urgently needs a legal framework to protect consumers from the ever-growing data-collection and data-sharing industries that make billions annually off Americans’ personal information,” said Lofgren. “The Online Privacy Act creates a robust framework that balances the actual needs of businesses with fair privacy rights and expectations for users.”

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The new legislation is now ranked #1 by Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) among all the privacy bills currently pending in Congress.

“The bill by Reps. Eshoo and Lofgren sets out strong rights for Internet users, promotes innovation, and establishes a Data Protection Agency,” said EPIC policy director Caitriona Fitzgerald. “This is the bill that Congress should enact.”

Specifically, as a joint statement from the congresswomen detailed, the bill “protects individuals, encourages innovation, and restores trust in technology companies” by doing the following:

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  • Creating User Rights – The bill grants every American the right to access, correct, or delete their data. It also creates new rights, like the right to impermanence, which lets users decide how long companies can keep their data.
  • Placing Clear Obligations on Companies – The bill minimizes the amount of data companies collect, process, disclose, and maintain, and bars companies from using data in discriminatory ways. Additionally, companies must receive consent from users in plain, simple language.
  • Establishing a Digital Privacy Agency (DPA) – The bill establishes an independent agency led by a director that’s appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate for a five-year term. The DPA will enforce privacy protections and investigate abuses.
  • Strengthening Enforcement – The bill empowers state attorneys general to enforce violations of the bill and allows individuals to appoint nonprofits to represent them in private class action lawsuits.

“Every American is vulnerable to privacy violations with few tools to defend themselves,” said Eshoo. “Our legislation ensures that every American has control over their own data, companies are held accountable, and the government provides tough but fair oversight.”

According to a fact sheet (pdf) from the sponsors, the bill also includes protections for journalists and creates an Open Source Machine Learning Training Data Grant Program.

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“This legislation helps to define a new era in our nation and around the world as citizens seek an alternative road to a digital future, one that is compatible with the rights of individuals and the aspirations of a democratic society.”
—Shoshana Zuboff, professor and author

Shoshana Zuboff, professor emerita at Harvard Business School and author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, welcomed Eshoo and Lofgren’s proposal, calling it “a significant milestone as lawmakers around the world take critical aim at the surveillance-based economics that now dominate the Internet.”

“This legislation is a game-changer in several key ways,” Zuboff said in the lawmakers’ statement. “First, it reframes the privacy debate from the notoriously flawed regime of ‘notice and consent’ to the human rights of users.”

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“Also, the act establishes a long overdue Digital Privacy Agency with important new investigatory, legal, and law enforcement powers,” she explained. “This legislation helps to define a new era in our nation and around the world as citizens seek an alternative road to a digital future, one that is compatible with the rights of individuals and the aspirations of a democratic society.”

Free Press Action senior policy counsel Gaurav Laroia declared Tuesday that the bill “marks a major moment in the ongoing legislative debate around consumer privacy.”

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“Misuses of private information chill free expression, cause reputational harms, inflict harmful price discrimination, and create other adverse impacts to people’s civil rights,” Laroia added in a statement. “Many of these data practices have disproportionate impacts on people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, religious minorities, and other marginalized groups.”

“It’s far past time,” Laroia concluded, “for the United States to adopt privacy regulations that protect people’s rights and give individuals—not corporations—control over how personal data is used.”

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Trump whines about ‘demeaning and belittling’ new book titled ‘A Very Stable Genius’

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President Donald Trump lashed out at two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists on Saturday after returning to Mar-a-Lago from Trump International Golf Club.

Trump lashed out at Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig for their highly-anticipated new book, A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America, which will be released on Tuesday.

The two were on The Washington Post team that won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Trump administration.

"Another Fake Book by two third rate Washington Post reporters, has already proven to be inaccurately reported, to their great embarrassment, all for the purpose of demeaning and belittling a President who is getting great things done for our Country, at a record clip," Trump claimed, without offering any evidence.

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Impeachment managers release trial memorandum detailing why Trump must be removed from office

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House impeachment managers released an in-depth trial memorandum laying out the case for convicting President Donald Trump during his Senate impeachment trial.

The memorandum was released by representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Val Demings (D-FL), Jason Crow (D-CO) and Sylvia Garcia (D-FL).

The document divides the argument by the House of Representatives into three points.

"The Senate should convict President Trump of abuse of power," is the first section.

"The Senate should convict President Trump of obstruction of Congress," is the second section.

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2020 Election

He ‘can’t understand why he is being impeached’: CNN reports Trump is asking ’why are they doing this to me?’

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President Donald Trump is reportedly "distracted" by impeachment while vacationing at Mar-a-Lago as the United States Senate trial begins.

"A source close to the White House who speaks to Donald Trump regularly said the President has appeared 'distracted' by the impeachment trial that begins on Tuesday, telling people around him Friday night at Mar-a-Lago that he 'can't understand why he is impeached,'" CNN's Jim Acosta reported Saturday. "'Why are they doing this to me,' the source quoted Trump as saying repeatedly."

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