According to Motherboard, the U.S. Senate recently received a bill that, if passed, would crack down on companies that try to manipulate users into offering up their data.
Called the Deceptive Experiences To Online User Reduction (DETOUR) Act, the bill would make this sort of manipulation illegal and punishable by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). “Companies would be banned from manipulating adults into signing away their data, or manipulating children into staying on a platform compulsively,” Motherboard says. “The bill also requires platforms to ensure informed consent from users before green-lighting academic studies.”
Motherboard also says that the bill would require tech companies to make widespread changes to their current platforms to comply, and be more transparent about the types of data they collect from users. Companies would also need to formulate their own Independent Review Boards, which would ensure that the company followed the law.
A root to the problem:
One reason why this bill was pushed forward may stem from users’ current lack of understanding of tech companies’ data use policies. Motherboard says that major tech companies do already have data use policies that require informed consent for data research, such as Facebook. However, reports have found that users, including those with Facebook accounts, don’t “always have a full grasp” on data research risks, aren’t always given an opt-out option, or a chance to question the research. Those three pieces are “crucial aspects of informed consent,” Motherboard says.
Plus, many current data use privacy policies are “notoriously unreadable,” and often written in “jargon-heavy legal speak,” Motherboard says. This contributes to users’ confusion over those policies, and decreases the ability for users to give consent. While the bill won’t serve as a blanket-regulation for all data platforms, it would be able to help companies make the “style, layout and text” of their privacy policies clearer and easier for users to digest.
The notion of the DETOUR Act sheds light on key privacy issues in the tech space, and appears to have users’ interest in the forefront. While the punishment for violators will likely be severe, the bill seems to aim to help tech companies straighten out their policies and infrastructure, and keep themselves and users protected. As a result, whether or not the bill is officially passed, decision makers may consider revising their current privacy policies to make them clearer and more airtight, and potentially avoid consequences down the road.