New law designed to protect privacy against Big Tech, especially for kids

DeSantis signs measure during a break from his presidential campaign

By: - June 6, 2023 1:01 pm

In this photo illustration, social media apps are seen on a mobile phone. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Gov. Ron DeSantis — back in Florida following a presidential campaign swing through key primary states — signed legislation Tuesday designed to protect Floridians’ privacy against tech companies that market their private information.

He did so during a ceremony in Central Florida’s Wildwood, cheek by jowl with The Villages, the massive senior community where he’s frequently visited to court Republican voters. He left without taking questions from reporters.

“This empowers Floridians. You are not just gonna be at the mercy of Big Brother kinda looking over everything you do and collecting all the information about you without your consent,” the governor said.

The new law (SB 262), called the Digital Bill of Rights or Technology Transparency Act, requires that consumers must opt in to allowing social media and other tech companies to share private information with third parties, including advertisers, and specifically targets sharing of information about children.

Writing the new law took a year or two, he said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Florida’s “Digital Bill of Rights” on Jue 6, 2023, in Wildwood. Source: Screenshot/DeSantis Facebook

“On the one hand, you know, we want to protect your right to data and privacy. On the other hand, you know, we don’t want necessarily to generate frivolous lawsuits or things like that, so you needed to find a happy medium,” DeSantis said.

The law lacks any private right of action against companies that break the law, meaning the right to file individual lawsuits. Rather, the Florida Department of Legal Affairs, headed by the state attorney general, could sue over violations as unfair and deceptive trade practices. Violations occurring anywhere could be punished in Florida if they target children living here.

DeSantis noted that he’d tried to punish social media sites for allegedly censoring conservates via 2021 law but the courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, blocked its enforcement. DeSantis said Tuesday that he hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will hear his appeal next year.

What it does

The new law:

  • Allows users to view and order deletion of personal information and opt out of its use for targeted advertising, including biometric and geolocation information.
  • Forbids state and local governments from engaging in content moderation in cooperation with social media platforms or ask that they remove content.
  • Sharply limits collection by platforms of personal information about children, including tracking their geolocation, or to sell such information to third parties.
  • Platforms would need specific informed consent by users to share their personal information. They could not use “a general or broad terms of use or similar document that contains descriptions of personal data processing along with other, unrelated information.”
  • Targets mostly the biggest social media players, those with at least $1 billion in global revenues and that either derive at least 50% of their money from advertising; operate a “consumer smart speaker and voice command component”; or operate an app store offering at least 250,000 apps. An analysis in the National Law Review notes that the limits would apply to smaller companies that process data under contract with the big players.
  • Requires search engines to post details of their search parameters and forbids “the prioritization or deprioritization of political partisanship or political ideology in search results.”

Florida becomes the latest state to enact social media privacy protections, following California, Colorado, Connecticut, and Montana, according to Consumer Reports. As of late April, states including Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Oregon, and New York are debating similar laws.

As to DeSantis leaving Tuesday without taking questions from Florida reporters, NBC News reported last week that:

“Ron DeSantis lashed out at a reporter — twice barking “Are you blind?” — at the end of his first campaign event in New Hampshire on Thursday. DeSantis, who delivered his stock stump speech to an audience of more than 100 people at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Laconia, became noticeably agitated when Steve Peoples of The Associated Press asked why he wasn’t taking questions from the audience like most presidential candidates do in this state.

“People are coming up to me, talking to me,” DeSantis said. “What are you talking about? Are you blind? Are you blind? People are coming up to me, talking to me whatever they want to talk to me about,” according to NBC News.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.