On February 23, 2015, Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson introduced A4204, the New Jersey Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act. The bill largely follows Federal legislation that had been introduced by Senator John D. Rockefeller, IV in 2014. Under Assemblyman Benson’s Bill, online data brokers, defined as commercial entities that sell personal information about New Jersey residents online, would need to follow certain rules. Notably, data brokers would provide New Jersey residents the ability to correct or review their personal information and allow individuals to permanently remove personal information from the data broker’s database upon demand. The Bill prohibits data brokers from soliciting or accepting a payment to review or remove an individual’s personal information. The New Jersey Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act would grant enforcement authority to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office through the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 et. seq.). As such, violations of the legislation could lead to penalties of up to $10,000 for a first offense and $20,000 for a second offense. In addition, the bill currently allows for a private right of action that would allow citizens to seek damages, along with costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, and any other legal or equitable relief for any violations.
Supporting a Federal Data Broker law is part of the Privacy Agenda. Provided the difficulties in getting anything passed in Washington, the Privacy Initiative of New Jersey would strongly support Assemblyman Benson’s Data Broker legislation. Legislation like the New Jersey Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act is critical for allowing citizens to control the information that exists about them on the Internet. The information published by data brokers can have real consequences for individuals. Incorrect information on the Internet can lead to reputation issues for individuals, a decrease in a person’s credit rating and could create difficultly for an individual attempting to secure employment. In addition, the information published by data brokers can be dangerous for individuals who are victims of domestic violence, harassment or stalking who need to hide their personal information for security reasons.
The New Jersey Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act is a strong piece of legislation. That being said, it can be improved in one important way. Presently, the onus for contacting each individual data broker would be on the individual. The legislation would benefit from a central opt-out premised on the National Do-Not Call Registry. By providing a central opt-out, individuals would not need to contact each data broker to have their information removed. Nevertheless, Assemblyman Benson’s Bill should be applauded and the Privacy Initiative of New Jersey is committed to ensuring the Bill’s passage.