Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo says he hopes “Big Data” and privacy issues will be a major focus for the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee next year.
Crapo, who has been chairman of the Banking Committee since 2017, said he’s becoming increasingly concerned about the staggering amounts of data that private sector firms and government agencies collect on Americans every day.
“I think there’s a need for major legislation to give people the tools to protect their privacy and to opt out of this data collection,” he said during a telephone interview Monday.
The information that’s being collected ranges from financial data to social media practices and consumer preferences. Although it’s often used for benign purposes, such as helping people find products they really want, there’s also a potential for it to be misused or mishandled, and for manipulation.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Idaho Statesman
“I’m concerned that (the companies and agencies) can use data to push their own social agendas,” Crapo said.
At this point, the committee hasn’t delved into the issue enough for him to know what kind of legislation might be proposed. It’s still unclear, for example, whether the committee will try to go further than the new privacy protections that were implemented in the European Union this past summer.
The EU rules clarified that companies must get permission before collecting information such as someone’s email address, what they post on social media, any electronic medical records or their GPS location. They also gave people a right to have their data deleted if they don’t want the company to keep it.
“I’ve looked at what Europe does, and I like the general approach,” Crapo said. “But I don’t know if our legislation will be more than that, or more effective. We may learn from them, now that their (rules) are being implemented.”