Delaware lawmakers discuss data collection

House committee shows support for information sales measure

By Logan B. Anderson
Posted 1/25/22

DOVER — Do you want to know who is making money off your name, address, Social Security number, biometric data and other personal information collected by data brokers?

Rep. Krista Griffith, …

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Delaware lawmakers discuss data collection

House committee shows support for information sales measure

Posted

DOVER — Do you want to know who is making money off your name, address, Social Security number, biometric data and other personal information collected by data brokers?

Rep. Krista Griffith, D-Fairfax, wants all Delawareans to know who is selling their data and what they are doing with the information.

On Tuesday, Rep. Griffith brought HB262, the Data Act, to the House Technology & Telecommunications Committee for discussion.

The bill, introduced last June, would require any individual or group that plans to make money from selling a person’s data to register with the state and report on their actions. The state’s Department of Justice would take the information and input it into a website where residents of Delaware could look up who is using their information and how.

To participate in the business of data collection and sales, the person or firm would have to pay to register. There would be a sliding fee scale that the data broker would be required to pay. Registration fees would be based on the data broker’s activities during the year immediately preceding the date of registration. The fees would range from $10 to $500.

Companies that collect data for their own market research that do not plan to sell that information would not have to register. Only entities that make money on the sale of that information would have to register.

“From Wyoming to Bridgeville, to Milford to North Wilmington, to Greenville to Hockessin, to Bear to Newark and everywhere in between, consumers in the state of Delaware are wanting to know who is selling and making money off of their personal data,” Rep. Griffith said.

The representative from northern New Castle County said, as lawmakers, it is the General Assembly’s duty to represent the wants and needs of their constituents.

The state’s Department of Justice helped craft the bill’s language.

“The Data Act is an important bill that will advance consumer choice and transparency into the sale of personal data by companies that consumers do business with, as well as the ongoing purchases and sales of that data by others in the marketplace,” said Owen Lefkon, director of the Fraud and Consumer Protection Division of the state’s DOJ.

Rep. Griffith said she has been working on HB262 for more than a year and chose to base her bill on a similar piece of legislation enacted in the state of Vermont.

On Tuesday, Ryan Kriger, assistant attorney general for the state of Vermont, joined Delaware lawmakers virtually to discuss the action his state took. Vermont passed a law that created a similar registration structure that Rep. Griffith’s HB262 aims to make.

“The data broker industry is a very opaque industry. Most people don’t even know the names of the companies that are collecting their data,” Mr. Kriger said on Tuesday.

Mr. Kriger, who is a lawyer, said he often finds himself unable to decipher the privacy terms and conditions of many products.

Vermont’s law was enacted in 2019. Lawmakers there held 10 hours of public hearings and spent six months studying the data industry.

“I think it’s been a very valuable law,” Mr. Kriger said.

During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s hearing on HB262, lawmakers heard from nearly a dozen lobbyists and data broker representatives. The chorus of lobbyists almost all said that current federal laws are enough and consumers already know how to find out about their information and how to opt out of the data trade system.

Milford Republican Bryan Shupe took issue with that message.

“We heard several people say the same thing — that people know how to opt out, that people know that this information is being collected, and then, in addition to that, they know how to opt out of this information … I needed to make the statement that that’s just not true … So to say that over and over again does not make it true,” Rep. Shupe said.

HB262 received unanimous support from the members of the House Technology & Telecommunications Committee. The bill will now move to the House floor for debate.

Rep. Griffith pledged to continue working on the bill and expects to introduce some amendments; the bill probably will not make it to the floor until later this legislative session.