Bill to regulate data brokers passes the House!

Last week, the House advanced H.764, a first-in-the-nation bill to regulate data brokers in Vermont. This is an important step to give Vermonters better protections and more control when it comes to their sensitive information.

Last summer’s Equifax data breach — where the personal information of over 140 million Americans was exposed, including hundreds of thousands of Vermonters — made clear that our elected officials need to be doing all they can to protect consumers’ information and provide the proper recourse when this information has been compromised.

That’s where data brokers come in.

Data brokers are third-party companies (that you probably have never heard of) that buy and collect consumer data from a variety of sources such as public records, website visit history, shopper loyalty information, retail purchases and more. Then they analyze, package, and sell this information to other businesses to use as they please.

The data broker industry is essentially unregulated. Industry lobbyists have been working tirelessly to preserve the status quo and keep consumers in the dark about who has their data and what is being done with it.

H.764 would shine a light on their practices and rein in the reach of data brokers by:

    – Creating a registry of data brokers operating in Vermont and requiring them to notify the state in clear language what their opt-out procedures are if they have them.
    – Requiring data brokers to notify the state if they maintain and have data on minors.
    – Requiring data brokers to notify the state if they suffer a data breach that exposes consumers’ personal information.
    – Prohibiting the acquisition of personal data for illegal purposes such as stalking and harassment.
    – Eliminate fees to freeze credit history after a data breach like Equifax.

VPIRG supports H.764 as common sense steps that the state should take in order to help Vermonters control their own personal data. Ultimately, we’d like to see these strengthened and expanded upon to even further protect Vermont consumers’ information and hold the data broker industry accountable.

Throughout the session, VPIRG and our members have been speaking up for stronger consumer protections in the digital space. H.764 would not have passed this critical benchmark without VPIRG members taking action — thank you for speaking up! We will continue to follow this bill closely and keep you updated with developments and opportunities for action.