WASHINGTON, D.C. - Consumer privacy advocacy groups are raising concern about the personal information companies take from your digital footprint and use that information to influence what advertisements reach you, how they track your activity, and collect private information on you and sell it to third parties.  We spoke with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R- PA) on this issue.  

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA), a non-profit consumer organization, explains that data collection used by big tech companies and businesses can influence, track and store information about you, without you even knowing about it. The CFA explains companies can use that info and sell it to third parties, which could influence what deals and advertisements are shown to you and even track other personal information on you. Businesses argue they use this information to better understand and meet their customers’ demands. So by looking at what you search for and what you buy, companies can offer goods or services to better suit the marketplace.    

Who should be responsible for what information is being collected and how it is used? Should that responsibility fall on the consumer or the business? We heard a couple of different answers from congressional members when we asked them that.   

“The rules today are there are no rules and privacy today is well, it’s okay what I want to know but it’s not okay for people to try to find out what I want to keep private and so it’s a double, it’s a double standard,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (R- PA(. “And the truth of the matter is, if it wasn’t for the double standard, there’d be no standard at all and I think that’s where we are today in our nation. It’s like ‘yeah I want privacy laws but then I want to have access to people and like to find out what they’re really thinking about’. They say ‘okay now having said that, does that pertain to you? No, no, no, no. My stuff has to stay private but the stuff I want to know I have to have access to.’” 

Congressman Kelly said businesses should make sure it’s easier for consumers to read and understand the disclaimers. 

“That person making that choice at that time also has a responsibility to himself or herself to really do a deeper dive than just say okay, fine I’ll believe it because it's on a label,” said Kelly. “I think you need to take a deeper look.”  

Consumers have should have choices and they should have the power to make decisions, but the responsibility to govern this space really should be federal because the states will pursue different areas and different kinds of oversight, but not all states are doing that,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D- NY). 

Senator Gillibrand is sponsoring legislation that would create the Data Protection Agency. It would focus solely on privacy protection.   

“Being a mom of young boys who have grown up over the last decade, I've watched how the computer affects them, how the Internet affects them, how they can easily be pulled in one direction or the other and so I've lived this, I've watched it and so I just know that my children, everyone's children, and that people in general deserve privacy,” said Gillibrand. “And they deserve not to have their data used against them to harm them or to sell them something and that we as humans have a right to own her own data and information and to see more companies double down on you being the products to the user are the product and they are stealing your data using it against you and monetizing it.”  

Gillibrand said consumer privacy is an important issue and deserves to be discussed more often. As for the Senator’s legislation, it’s been introduced but it hasn’t gone through any committees yet.