New legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) last week sought limits on the sale of private data by banning data brokers from selling military personnel lists to U.S.-dubbed adversarial nations.
Citing national security, the trio produced the Protecting Military Service Members’ Data Act of 2022 to grant new enforcement powers to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It would include the added limitations as an extension of the FTC’s abilities to crack down on unfair or deceptive practices.
“The business model of data brokers threatens the safety, privacy, and civil liberties of Americans, including service members,” Warren said. “We can’t allow Big Tech companies and other data brokers to exploit sensitive data for profit, and this legislation would help regulate the industry to protect servicemembers’ personal information.”
Current law, Cassidy added, lacks common sense because it allows others to buy up sensitive data and use it to inflict national harm. With the expansion of the internet and all things digital over recent decades, data brokers’ power and reach has grown significantly, with largely free reign to buy and sell information on private citizens to whomever they wish, for whatever purpose. This includes military personnel whose identity, addresses, political beliefs, and lifestyle choices are fair game for sale at home or abroad.
“It is common sense to prevent big data companies and shady brokers from selling information about our military personnel to countries that could use that information against us,” Rubio said. “This bill would protect the privacy of service members and mitigate this national security risk.”
The bill would open the possibility of expanding this crackdown beyond soldiers. It would empower the FTC to include other relevant vulnerable groups as it sees fit. For the moment, if passed, the bill’s authors would like to see bans applied to sales to China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.