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CFO Jimmy Patronis: We Must Empower Consumers to Hold Big Tech Accountable

1/13/2021

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Contact: Office of Communications, Communications@MyFloridaCFO.com, 850.413.2842
CFO Jimmy Patronis: We Must Empower Consumers to Hold Big Tech Accountable
~CFO Announces Efforts to Pursue Consumer Protection Legislation in Upcoming Session~

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced he is calling for legislation to protect consumers by giving them the ability to opt-out of having their personal data harvested and sold by big tech companies. Many large technology firms, including Facebook and Google, have adopted a business model of collecting and selling consumer information without consumers knowing what data is collected and who it’s being sold to. Just as the law protects other property rights, the CFO believes it should also protect consumer information, which big tech companies are using to extract maximum profit from consumers who are being kept in the dark.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “As someone that’s been in small business my entire life, I believe in the power of private enterprise, but private enterprise must respect property rights and the way big tech firms leverage our data looks more like theft than a legitimate economic transaction. There’s nothing more valuable to a person than one’s own identity, and big tech has figured out a way to cash-in while leaving the consumer in the dark. It’s time we recognize the reality that consumers have a property interest in the private information big tech companies are buying and selling on a daily basis. During the COVID-19 pandemic small businesses like dry cleaners, restaurants and other local retailers were put on life support as businesses in Silicon Valley were raking in billions of dollars for their shareholders. As Americans were told to stay home and shop online, big tech reaped huge profits through the pandemic. Perhaps more insidiously, however, big tech leverages consumer data to the detriment of Floridians and the brick-and-mortar businesses that employ them.”

In addition to the ability to “opt-out” of having consumer data collected and sold, the CFO outlined additional provisions that would empower consumers with:

• The ability to know what data is being collected, and whether data collection firms use encryption or other measures to safeguard against unauthorized access of consumer data.

• The ability to know whether third-party data brokers vet who they sell consumer data to, and whether data brokers sell personal information to foreign governments.

• The ability to bring a private cause of action against big tech companies (those with gross revenues in excess of $25 million) who refuse to provide consumers with the ability to opt-out of having their data sold or otherwise comply with data collection transparency requirements provided in law.

Online data brokers collect and sell vast amounts of sensitive personal information. In recent years, big tech has leveraged consumer information to manipulate pricing based on a consumer’s personal traits like geographic and income data.  Inevitably, big tech uses this farmed data for behavioral profiling, where goods are offered to consumers at different prices, in order to extract the most profit possible from a transaction. Eliminating price discovery by only offering consumers goods priced at the algorithm-calculated “maximum pain point” disadvantages consumers. Giving individuals the ability to opt-out of having their personal information sold safeguards the property interest consumers have in their personal data. Requiring large tech companies to disclose what information they collect and who they sell it to would allow consumers to make informed decisions about which platforms they do business with.   

The CFO continued, “I think government has a responsibility to tell these businesses that you have to be upfront with your customers and ask permission before using their data for purposes they may know nothing about. With leaders like Senator Burgess, Senator Broxson and Representative Fine working to hold big tech accountable, I think there’s an appetite for passing meaningful consumer-protection legislation in the upcoming session. We must protect Florida’s consumers from the big tech companies who weaponize private information against consumers, and I look forward to working with the Legislature to pass this critical legislation.”

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About CFO Jimmy Patronis 
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis is a statewide elected official and a member of Florida’s Cabinet who oversees the Department of Financial Services. El Oficial Principal de Finanzas Patronis trabaja todos los días para luchar contra el fraude de seguros, apoyar a los bomberos de la Florida y garantizar que las finanzas del estado sean estables para respaldar el crecimiento financiero del estado. Siga las actividades del departamento en Facebook (FLDFS) y Twitter (@FLDFS).