Gov. DeSantis offers new details in plan to take on Big Tech

Governor joined by GOP state lawmakers to unveil legislation aimed at data privacy

Gov. DeSantis unveils new legislation aimed at Big Tech companies
Gov. DeSantis unveils new legislation aimed at Big Tech companies (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla – Gov. Ron DeSantis provided new details Monday on legislation filed in the Florida House of Representatives aimed at Big Tech companies, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.

The bill is called the Florida Information Protection Act, or House Bill 969.

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The governor was joined by two GOP state lawmakers, Republican House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Republican state Rep. Fiona McFarland, at the Capitol in Tallahassee to discuss the bill, which will be considered in the 2021 legislative session. The session begins March 2.

“Big Tech platforms have created a surveillance economy, which enriches those platforms by free-riding on consumer data,” DeSantis said. “Worse, Big Tech platforms have made privacy an illusion. The truth is Floridians’ most intimate information is collected analyzed and sold to the highest bidder.”

DeSantis promised the proposed bill would give Floridians more control over their data.

“The financial success of these big platforms, who are collecting and selling your personal information, has been built on their ability to do so without you realizing it, and effectively without your informed consent,” DeSantis said.

The bill would force tech companies to explain, in detail, to consumers exactly what information is being collected and ultimately give those consumers power over whether that information can be sold or even collected in the first place, according to the governor.

“In Florida, we’re gonna make sure consumers are in the driver’s seat to make that decision, not Silicon Valley or other global companies who are far more focused on their profits than on your privacy,” DeSantis said.

Sprowls added that the bill covers more businesses than just tech giants.

“It covers businesses with a global gross annual revenue over $25 million that buys, receives or sells information on 50,000 or more customers, households or devices or derives more than 50% of their global annual revenue from selling consumers’ personal information,” he said.

McFarland is the representative who filed the bill, calling it a “critical piece of legislation.”

“In our society, the amount of power that we have handed over to companies through the use of our data has resulted in an erosion of our right to privacy and an erosion of our ownership over our own identity,” the state representative said.

McFarland elaborated further that the bill, if passed, would ultimately give consumers the right to sue tech companies in the event of a data breach.

“Florida will reestablish our right to privacy and over our own personal information,” McFarland said.

DeSantis first announced his plans to roll out this legislation nearly two weeks ago, on Feb. 2. At the time, he also decried tech companies for “neutering” political candidates’ access to voters, saying that tech companies were only “de-platforming” Republican politicians. However, the governor and his fellow GOP lawmakers were more focused on data privacy during Monday’s briefing and largely did not discuss his previous claims of censorship.

When asked whether Florida had the power to regulate such large companies, which reach well beyond the state, the governor asserted that the state did have such authority.

“Well, they operate in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “Consumer protections take different forms in different states, and that’s been true with a bunch of different aspects of the economy.”

News 6 legal analyst Steven Kramer says it is a complicated proposal.

“States do have an ability to regulate all companies that do business within states,” Kramer said. “But it’s limited when you’re talking about internet companies because we have this rule, the section 230. Section 230 is part of the 1996 Federal Telecommunications Act, which, in some cases provides websites, including social media companies, immunity.”

Kramer says it’s unclear how much states can regulate such global companies when there is already federal law.

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About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.