Wilton Simpson throws support behind internet privacy bill
Image via Colin Hackley.

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Florida's laws must match the growing capabilities of technology, the Senate President said.

Senate President Wilton Simpson made clear on Thursday his support for Republican’s plans to protect Floridians’ data from tech companies.

The Trilby Republican was absent Monday when Gov. Ron DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez and House members including Speaker Chris Sprowls unveiled their data privacy protection plan. But during a press availability Thursday, Simpson called it a “very important” and “very good issue.”

Although there is no Senate companion legislation yet for the House bill (HB 969), carried by Rep. Fiona McFarland, the Senate President assured reporters that the Senate would fully vet the privacy topic.

“Any time our citizens’ information can be sold, we should have the right and the entitlement to know what we’re doing,” Simpson said.

The bill would guarantee Floridians the right to find out what information companies have on them, to have the companies delete the data, to ask companies not to sell the data and to sue businesses that violate those protections. The legislation is intended to also expand a law known as the Florida Information Protection Act to include biometric data, such as fingerprints, voice recordings and retina scans.

Florida’s laws must match the growing capabilities of technology, Simpson said.

“Unfortunately we’re always behind because technology’s half-life now is about 15 minutes,” Simpson said. “So we have to do a better job at making sure that our laws will protect even these futuristic problems, the way they’re selling our information.”

Agencies including the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles have sold personal data before.

“I think they’re all one in the same,” Simpson said. “I don’t think you can say big tech can’t do it but then other agencies, they can.”

Earlier this month, DeSantis, Sprowls and Simpson announced a bill, titled the Transparency in Technology Act, to protect Floridians’ right to use social media platforms, a crackdown on what DeSantis called the “big tech cartel.” That includes a daily $100,000 fine for “de-platforming” candidates for office, such as when Twitter and other sites banned former President Donald Trump.

That first half of Republican leadership’s big tech package has drawn criticism from Democrats. For liberals, Simpson said it’s easy to be fine with it because Trump and conservatives were on the receiving end of “violating our first amendments” this time.

“Two years from now, three years from now, those same big tech companies will be censoring liberal voices, and then it’ll be an entirely different discussion,” Simpson said.

Questions exist on the state’s ability to regulate global corporations. And interstate commerce is a federal issue, the Senate President acknowledged.

“But I think there are things that the Governor has outlined and the Speaker have outlined that we can do as a state,” he added. “We are certainly going to take a look at these issues. It’s something that I think is very important.”

Last updated on February 18, 2021

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.



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