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Why the powerful aren’t protecting your privacy, from the US Senator fighting for action

Senator Ron Wyden arrives for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing evaluating the Intelligence Community Assessment on "Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections" in 2018.
Reuters/ Joshua Roberts
Senator Wyden wants to put CEOs who abuse privacy in jail
  • Olivia Goldhill
By Olivia Goldhill

Science reporter

Ron Wyden is ready for a fight. Last year, the Oregon Senator exposed cell phone carriers for selling real-time location-tracking data to third parties, without checking that these customers had legal authority to track cell phone users. They promised to stop, but didn’t keep that promise.

Faced with such blatant invasions of privacy, Senator Wyden ramped up the legal threats. He published a draft bill late last year which includes 20-year prison sentences for senior executives of companies that violate customers’ privacy, and plans to formally introduce the bill to the Senate in the coming weeks. Earlier this year, he introduced the Algorithm Accountability Act, which demands that companies assess their algorithms for bias, alongside Senator Booker and Senator Clark.

In an interview with Quartz, Senator Wyden laid out his ongoing plans to take on data harvesting, including a soon-to-be-introduced new bill that will allow consumers to review what personal information companies hold on them, and to challenge any inaccuracies. Senator Wyden could be heard banging on the table during the phone interview as he railed against the widespread invasion of privacy. The conversation below has been edited lightly for clarity and length.

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