Data privacy bill killed as legislature adjourned

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Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

Frustrated by inaction at the federal level, state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, has pushed Connecticut for several years to establish its own set of consumer protections that would allow them have more say over the data being collected about them online.

He thought he had it done this week, but the effort fell short and he’ll have to wait at least another year.

Duff was among senators Thursday who expressed disappointment over proposals left out of the final budget bill. His data privacy bill, which he championed with Sen. James Maroney, D-Milford., was stripped out of the so-called implementer that finalizes the state budget right before the House voted Wednesday.

The bill would have given Connecticut consumers the right to access, correct, delete and export data collected about them, and to opt out of the sale of that data or the use of it for targeted advertising. Connecticut’s attorney general would have been charged with enforcing the law.

“We have a crisis of privacy in our country right now,” Duff said from the Senate floor Thursday. “Companies are profiting off of every single keystroke that we make on our devices.”

Duff said lobbyists from the tech industry pressured House lawmakers, including Democrats, to drop the proposal. He and Maroney said they faced strong opposition to the bill from a coalition of more than 50 lobbyists from the tech industry, which has spent millions of dollars to combat state efforts to develop their own data privacy laws.

While the bill passed out of the General Law Committee, it never came up for a vote in the House or Senate. Duff and Maroney argued that because it would have created several new positions within the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office, it made sense to include it in the budget implementer.

“Every day we allow corporate entities to surveil us, and not only are they surveilling us, they are selling that data and profiting off of that data,” Maroney said.

The law would have applied to any business that controls the data of more than 100,000 Connecticut consumers or those that make more than 25 percent of their revenue from selling data and controlling the data of at least 25,000 Connecticut consumers.

Companies would have been required to tell Connecticut consumers what data is being collected about them and how it is being used.

Hospitals, higher education institutions, governments, and non-profits would have been exempt. The proponents also included a specific exemption for public health emergencies given the role data played in response to coronavirus pandemic.

Maroney said Thursday that he and Duff would be back next year with a “stronger bill” that puts consumer’s rights ahead of “out-of-state corporate pocketbooks.”

Republicans criticized the implementer bill for being littered with Democratic priorities that didn’t get passed during the regular session, including free phone calls for inmates and expanding absentee voting.

“This should all be dealing with the budget and nothing more, and there’s a lot more in here than just budget-related items,” said Sen. Dan Champagne, R-Vernon, who was among six Republicans who voted against the budget implementer.