Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass,), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced legislation on Thursday to require accountability and transparency for data brokers like Equifax who are collecting and selling personal and sensitive information about consumers.

The Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act allows consumers to access and correct their information to help ensure maximum accuracy. The legislation also provides consumers with the right to stop data brokers from using, sharing, or selling their personal information for marketing purposes.

The bill additionally requires data brokers to develop comprehensive privacy and data security programs and to provide reasonable notice in the case of breaches. The legislation empowers the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce the law and promulgate rules within one year, including rules necessary to establish a centralized website for consumers to view a list of covered data brokers and information regarding consumer rights. 

Equifax’s business extends far beyond its role as one of the big three credit reporting agencies.  Equifax also serves as a data broker, selling data profiles on consumers to various industries. 

“This urgently needed bill will help protect consumers from the massive data gathering tactics of companies as Equifax,” said Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy.  “Americans need to know what information is being compiled and used about them and their families, including what they do online.  Instead of operating as a stealth data broker that mines our information 24/7, they will now be held more accountable for what they do.

“The Equifax scandal is conclusive evidence that consumers need and deserve these protections– without delay,” said Senator Blumenthal, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

“Third party data brokers profiting off the sale of personal consumer information is a shameless violation of the privacy and security of millions of Americans. In the face of ubiquitous online security threats – more pertinent than ever following the Equifax data breach – Congress must act to put the power back in the hands of consumers. This bill will guarantee Americans’ right to access files on their own personal information, correct any inaccuracies contained within, and guard against the unwanted sale of their data. The American people have a right to know if their personal data has been exploited or contains errors.”