Fla. Rep. Fiona McFarland: Protecting privacy online – Florida taking this step to safeguard consumers

Our most private information is vulnerable to hacking and exploitation

We live in the digital information age, and there is a tug of war over who owns your data – you or the online businesses that demand it and use it.  

Fortunately, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls have stepped forward to address this – what I believe is one of our most pressing problems.  

This week, with their encouragement, I introduced a ground-breaking Consumer Data Privacy bill in the Florida House of Representatives that will put the ownership of personal data back into the hands of individual Floridians, while at the same time allowing big tech and businesses to access our information – as long as we give them permission.  

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When we interact with websites, apps and services online, we leave behind troves of personal information about ourselves. As commonplace activities like checking in with friends, finding places to eat, or even keeping a calendar have moved online, users often have no idea that they are simultaneously giving information to companies about where they've walked, shopped or prayed. 

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In our society, the amount of power we have unwittingly handed over to companies to use our data has resulted in a steady erosion of our right to privacy. And in many cases, it has left our most private information vulnerable to hacking and exploitation. We no longer own or control access to our own identity. In Florida, that is about to change. 

In our society, the amount of power we have unwittingly handed over to companies to use our data has resulted in a steady erosion of our right to privacy.

Florida's Consumer Data Privacy legislation affirms four main rights of the individual: 

-The right to find out what information companies have about you 

-The right to tell them to delete it 

-The right to tell companies not to sell your data without your permission 

-The right to sue in the event of a data breach 

Our country was founded on the ideals of freedom and rights. But another hallmark of our great nation – innovation – has created a digital universe where a parallel but shapeless version of ourselves exists. While we celebrate the spirit of American ingenuity and innovation, we must balance this spirit with protections for our private information.  

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The legislation I proposed establishes necessary guardrails and standards based on full disclosure and openness of how our personal data is collected and used. It is long overdue. In 2019, a Wall Street Journal poll found that 90% of people believe that sharing or selling access to a consumer's public information should require a user's permission.  

In the Sunshine State, we have a saying that makes even more sense in the Digital Information Age – sunlight is the best disinfectant. I'm proud to shine a light on this dark issue for Florida's consumers.  

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