Wisconsin Lawmaker Proposes Heavy Regulations on Private Data Collection

Companies could pay a high penalty for disobeying orders to halt the collection and distribution of personal data under a package of bills being proposed by a Wisconsin lawmaker.

State Rep. Shannon Zimmerman said he’ll begin circulating the proposed Wisconsin Data Privacy Act, which could fine companies up to $20 million — or assess a portion of their annual revenue — if they don’t abide rules established in three bills. The River Falls Republican plans to formally unveil the package Wednesday, Jan. 29.

Zimmerman said the legislation represents the first of its kind in the United States to hold companies accountable for sharing personal data without users’ consent. He said the practice of collecting private user information and then distributing it has become prolific.

“However bad you think it is, it’s worse,” Zimmerman said. “It’s unnerving, it’s a violation of privacy.”

The first bill would allow Wisconsin residents to learn what data businesses have collected. He said those companies could range from tech giants such as Google or Facebook to any entity that collects user data. With some limitations, businesses would be required to release a record of what they’ve collected and what they intend to do with it, according to the legislation.

The second bill would give Wisconsinites the right to demand a company stop collecting the data and to delete it.

The third bill prohibits — with some exceptions — companies from collecting or selling personal data. That data includes biometric, health and genetic data that could be gathered by genealogy firms. Information made available from federal, state or local government records would not be subject to regulations under the bill.