Congress takes steps toward federal 'digital privacy' regulations

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Congress took the first steps toward setting national regulations on how companies use consumer data.

Wednesday, some of Silicon Valley's biggest tech giants went before the Senate commerce committee to explain their privacy policies and potentially help shape federal privacy law. This comes after recent scandals like the Facebook data breach that caused increased consumer anxiety over who has their information and why they're using it.

If you're posting selfies to social media... or looking up a new recipe online... chances are, someone is tracking you.

But the personal information we post freely online... has real value for tech companies. When it comes to data privacy and consumer trust... A Harris poll survey found that 85 percent of consumers feel companies should be doing more to actively protect their data.

Network Technician Brandon Schwemley says at Fresno's Kotman Technology he sees it from both the consumer and business side. He says, "why else can these things provide a free service. Facebook is free. Instagram is free. Twitter is free. Well that's because they make money off of your information and also with advertisements that they use of that nature."

As Congress works toward setting a federal precedent on how companies use consumer data, Privacy Advocates argue what is needed is legislation to govern how data is collected, used, kept, shared and sold.

A California law set to take effect in 2020 will require companies to tell customers what personal data they've collected, why it was collected and which third parties have received it.
Schwemley says, "things like being able to request to remove all of your information from the internet is valuable. So that could bring businesses to fail or succeed depending on how they benefit from information."

Experts suggest not letting fear run your digital life. Be smart about what you post. Avoid things like social security numbers and password sensitive information.
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