NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - You see it on Facebook, Twitter, Google: the “I Agree” button or paragraph. The big internet and social media companies use that as an understanding that you agree to their terms before you use their site, though people seldom read them.
“Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make their agreements airtight to protect them and not us,” said Ashley Nelson, a professor at Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business.
And when you sign on for those “airtight” agreements, it allows the company to profit by selling information and data about you.
“Someone is selling our information and we have no idea where our information is going, we have no clue,” said Nelson.
Nelson said the European Union seamlessly implemented legislation in 2018 that says big internet companies can’t sell personal data for profit.
“They’ve already been doing it. Any company with an internet presence, social media, Gmail, everything - they have to abide by the same rules that the data is private. They just call it opt out,” said Nelson.
Now Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy wants to bring that concept to the U.S. He said the bill would protect users from internet companies that collect information and sell it for profit.
“They figured out a clever way - I’m not criticizing - to monetize that data, but it’s still my data, and I have a right to know how they’re using it,” said Kennedy.
Not only that, Kennedy wants to make it so there's a way users can access what information the company has collected about you, and a button to tell the company whether you want them to collect that data or not.
“They influence what we wear, how we vote, what we believe. They influence how we feel. Their power is massive, and they do it through the use of our data, and in return we get their service for free and that’s fine. That’s free enterprise as long as we know the rules, and I don think a lot of users do because the user agreements were written by a room full of lawyers,” Kennedy said.
Nelson said while these may seem like daunting changes, the EU has proven it to be relatively easy. They’ve even hit internet companies that violated the new rules with major multi-million-dollar fines the first year.
“It’s not going to change the landscape of social media at all, it’s going to change what they do with our information,” Nelson said.
Kennedy said there would be no trouble enforcing his bill, as it would be the responsibility of the Federal Trade Commission. However, Nelson said Kennedy should take his bill one step further: Go after Google, too.