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The new online privacy bill you probably haven’t heard of

Written on May 1, 2020
By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager

 

A recently introduced federal bill will not only address online privacy for consumers, but it might also help businesses, a CPA said.

Jake Nix, CPA and president of RISC Point Advisory Group, said the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act “will actually be a step in the right direction for us in privacy law.

“Right now, we have 43 different pieces of legislation that govern privacy and security in the US, and they're completely disparate,” Nix said. “If you look at an overarching law that could govern privacy and security, it could actually make things a lot easier for businesses.”

If you haven’t heard of this bill recently introduced in November, you’re not alone, as Nix said it hasn’t been in the news much.

“It'll probably get a little bit of traction after the election,” he said. “And even if it gets passed immediately after that, it'll still have a year or two before it gets enforced. But it's pretty wide-reaching. It would be the first U.S. federal privacy law in the new wave of privacy laws and it really does expand into data privacy for all citizens.”

The bill has drawn comparisons to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, and aspects of the bills include requiring companies to turn over data they store about people upon their request and keep up-to-date privacy policies explaining how they use and store data. Companies also couldn’t weaken privacy protections for data they’ve already stored without explicit consent and would have to let people correct mistakes and inaccuracies in their data or delete it on request.

Although it will be a while before this bill could be passed, Nix suggested practicing due care with any data you collect in your organization to be compliant with any future regulations.

“The thing that I tell all my clients is regardless of any regulatory requirements or pressure, consumers are becoming more aware of what companies do with their data,” he said. “And if you're not doing the right thing, the reputational harm will far outweigh any potential regulatory fines.”

Becoming well-versed in data privacy rights would be invaluable, Nix said, as more companies and clients are becoming savvy to where their data is used.

“At this point in our culture, everything's online, everything's on your mobile phone or in your app, and every business uses some form of data,” he said. “Although the legal aspect is trailing behind, the consumer awareness is becoming much more common. This is an area where a little bit of information as a trusted advisor, whether you're the tax preparer, the auditor, or the bookkeeper, would really bring a lot of value to clients.”