WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced legislation to expand protections for Americans’ personal health data privacy. The Upholding Protections for Health and Online Location Data (UPHOLD) Privacy Act would prevent companies from profiting off of personally identifiable health data for advertising purposes. It would also allow consumers greater access to and ownership over their personal health information, restrict companies’ ability to collect or use information about personal health without user consent, and ban data brokers from selling location data.
Recent reports have illustrated how social media companies are collecting and data brokers are selling location data that could be used to identify women seeking reproductive health care services.
“For too long companies have profited off of Americans’ online data while consumers have been left in the dark, which is especially concerning in light of reports that some social media companies collect data related to reproductive health care,” said Klobuchar. “By stopping the use of personal health information for commercial advertising and banning the sale of location data, this legislation will put new protections in place to safeguard Americans’ privacy while giving consumers greater say over how their sensitive health data is shared online.”
“Since the reversal of Roe, data brokers and tech firms have continued to profit from the private health and location data of millions of Americans, including those seeking reproductive health care services,” said Warren. “The UPHOLD Privacy Act would protect consumers’ sensitive data and their right to privacy.”
“With Republicans working to ban and criminalize reproductive health care nationwide, it’s critical we safeguard the reproductive data privacy of everyone in our country,” said Hirono. “Everyone should be able to trust that personal data about their bodies and their health care will be protected. By restricting the sale and use of personally-identifiable health data, this bill will give patients and providers the peace of mind that their private information is secure. I’ll continue working with Senators Klobuchar, Warren, and our colleagues to defend reproductive freedom and privacy for all.”
The UPHOLD Privacy Act would:
- Ban the use of personally identifiable health data collected from any source, including data from users, medical centers, wearable fitness trackers, and web browsing histories, for commercial advertising. The restrictions would not apply to public health campaigns (e.g., college students for vaccinations);
- Place additional data minimization and disclosure restrictions on companies’ use of personal health data without an individual user’s consent; and
- Prohibit the sale of precise location data to and by data brokers.
As Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, Klobuchar has long led efforts to protect consumers’ privacy, especially regarding sensitive health data.
In January, Klobuchar and Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) called on three telehealth companies to protect their patients’ sensitive health data, expressing their concern over reports that these online health companies are tracking and sharing their customers’ personally identifiable health data with social media platforms for advertising purposes.
In May 2022, Klobuchar and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect the data privacy of women seeking reproductive health care.