Martin M. Looney

Senate President Pro Tempore

Martin M. Looney

An Advocate for Us

February 17, 2022

Senate Democrats Announce Data Privacy, Worker Protection, and Small Business Training Initiatives

HARTFORD – Today, Senate Democrats announced legislative initiatives to strengthen data privacy, expand worker protections, and support small business through new training programs. The legislative proposals include:

  • Expand Debt-Free Community College for Small Businesses in Need of Assistance
  • Protect Consumers with New Online Privacy Rights
  • Require Fair Work Week Schedules
  • Increase Protections for Warehouse Workers
  • Expand Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries for All Employees
  • Expand Connecticut Paid Sick Days
  • Provide Hero Pandemic Pay for Essential Workers
  • Address 2020 Unemployment Overpayment

“This legislative session I have dedicated myself to getting everyone on board with a consumer data bill of rights which guarantees companies to make a commitment to consumers,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “People in our community deserve to feel safe with their privacy online. These guidelines will ensure trust between a consumer and their electronics knowing their personal data isn’t being collected without their knowledge.”

“We introduced this concept four years ago and since the pandemic, we have accelerated the adoption of technology and moved so much of our lives online and that’s why this bill is so important to protect peoples privacy,” said Senator James Maroney (D-Milford), Senate Chair of General Law Committee. “People don’t realize how much data is being collected about them and I am dedicating myself to protecting the privacy of those who reside in Connecticut. This is my priority this legislative session and I will work to give people the right to feel protected online.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a real employment reckoning in the United States and across the world. There is a new focus on wages and working conditions and the value of labor, and there is an increasing respect not only for ‘frontline’ workers – doctors and nurses – but also for ‘essential workers’ – restaurant employees and grocery store clerks and big box store workers and health care aides and package delivery employees and others,” Senator Julie Kushner (D-Danbury), Senate Chair of the Labor & Public Employees Committee said. “And with that new-found recognition of the value of their labor comes a new responsibility on the part of lawmakers to address the workplace issues that they are facing, and to ensure that their work is protected and valued. Lawmakers enabled CEOs and hedge fund managers to amass great wealth for many decades; now is the time for us to give equal consideration to the frontline employees who work hard every day to keep us safe and keep our economy going – especially under the hazardous conditions that we’ve all experienced over the past two years. That’s what these bills do.”

“​Right now we are positioned to really put our money where our mouth is concerning our working class citizens and I am excited, hopeful and willing to ensure we do just that,” said Senator Jorge Cabrera (D-Hamden), Senate Vice-Chair of the Labor & Public Employees Committee. “We’ve all heard the praises for our courageous frontline workers, our grocery store employees, healthcare workers and teachers. It’s time we really reward them with pandemic pay. Furthermore it is time to truly address the inequities made worse by this pandemic that rest primarily on our working class folks. Our state has a balanced budget, surpluses and a maxed out rainy day fund. We can do this and I will do my best to make sure we do this.”

Senate Bill 3 – An Act Concerning Online Assistance in Competing in a Pandemic Economy for Small Businesses

As the coronavirus pandemic upends life for so many of us, local retailers – especially local restaurants – continue to fight for customers and their own economic survival against big, online retail names and food delivery apps.

For example, since 2018, online food delivery sales have increased 600% through popular apps like DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates, and others. A spike in online food deliveries coincided exactly with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in America in the spring of 2020.

The gradual end of the coronavirus pandemic may drive people back to dining in-person, but it may also see a continuation of the habit of ordering from online delivery apps that Americans have grown so accustomed to using over the past two years.

Senate Democrats propose expanding Connecticut’s debt-free community college program to include free online commerce courses for small businesses like restaurants to create or improve their online visibility so they can better compete for new customers or for customers who have grown accustomed to having their food ordered online and delivered to their door.

Revising menus, making restaurant decor and food more visually appealing for social media, streamlining delivery option, conducting online surveys and reviews are all ways that local restaurants can increase their profits through online e-commerce.

Senate Bill 6 – An Act Concerning Personal Data Privacy and Online Monitoring

In the era of big data, large corporations gather personal information on consumers oftentimes without the person knowing the information is held by the company much less being used for profit. Under Senate Bill 6, companies will be required to clearly cite a privacy policy telling consumers what data is being collected, how it is being used, and why.

In February 2021, State Senator James Maroney (D-Milford), Chair of the General Law Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), introduced Senate Bill 893, “An Act Concerning Consumer Privacy.” The bill received favorable votes in three committees but was never voted on by the legislature.

This year, Senate Democrats will follow similar action taken by California and Colorado and propose legislation to protect consumers with new privacy rights. People around the world are beginning to see the impact of data collection and deserve a stronger level of privacy and security.

Senate Bill 6 will include the following:

  • The right to know what personal information is collected, used, shared or sold, both as to the categories and specific pieces of personal information;
  • The right to delete personal information held by businesses and by extension, a business’s service provider;
  • The right to opt-out of sale of personal information. Consumers are able to direct a business that sells personal information to stop selling that information.
  • Children under the age of 16 must provide opt in consent, with a parent or guardian consenting for children under 13.
  • The right to non-discrimination in terms of price or service when a consumer exercises a privacy right under the bill.

In June 2021, Connecticut consumers were warned that Amazon would automatically connect their smart home devices and products to a new shared network called ‘Amazon Sidewalk’ beginning June 8, 2021. With Amazon automatically connecting consumer’s electronic devices to a new shared network, if a person is unaware this is happening tomorrow, they give up their right to protect their personal data. Devices like Alexa are already connected to a person’s home private Internet connection. When Amazon transforms it to a Sidewalk Bridge, the device creates a new network of its own that’s not WiFi. Instead, it uses common Bluetooth to connect devices nearby. Sidewalk authorizes the device to share a portion of a person’s home’s Internet bandwidth which could count toward a person’s Internet service provider’s data cap.

As people become aware of how much of their personal information is being observed and recorded, more eyebrows have been raised. Numerous people weren’t previously aware that they were being tracked. Apple recently released a new operating system and found that only 2 to 4% of Americans are opting in for tracking. The International and Internet Society found that 69% of consumers are concerned about how personal data is collected in mobile apps, such as banking or health apps. It was also found that 62% of consumers are concerned about personal data collected through devices such as computers and tablets.

This legislation ensures transparency within companies and consumers, therefore guaranteeing that consumers know just how much of their information is being collected and are given the right to control what is done with that data.

In July 2021, Ally Bank leaked usernames and passwords to third-party marketing partners. It took the company two months to notify customers of the breach and as of today, they have refused to name who the data was leaked to. Data leaks such as this one have become more commonplace. According to Risk Based Security, the number of records exposed increased to 36 billion in 2020 and there were 2,935 publicly reported breaches in the first three quarters of 2020. Other trends included a doubling of ransomware attacks from 2019 to 2020. Healthcare was the most victimized sector in 2020. A data privacy bill of rights would have provided consumers with rights and corporations with responsibility. If a data breach were to happen to residents in Connecticut such as the data that was leaked by Ally Bank, the financial institution would have had to let their consumers know right away, it would not be allowed for them to take two months.

In October 2021, Senator Maroney and Senator Duff called for answers regarding the personal data of Connecticut residents being collected through Facebook’s various internet platforms and wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, and Will Castleberry, the Vice President of State Policy and Community Engagement, requesting information on data purchases on Connecticut residents, what type of data, if the data is sold, and how the data is used.

The request was in response to testimony given by Ms. Frances Haugen before the United States Senate. Her testimony raised concern for both Senator Duff and Senator Maroney with how personal data is collected and used by Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

The legislation will ensure transparency within companies and consumers, therefore guaranteeing that consumers know just how much of their information is being collected and are given the right to control what is done with that data.

Worker Protection Initiatives

In reaction to the changing nature of labor and business as experienced over the past two years, many Labor Committee bills this session could well be thematically grouped under one heading: An Act Protecting Connecticut Workers. The proposals include:

An Act Concerning Fair Work Week Schedule requires certain employers to provide advanced notice to certain employees of that employees’ work schedule.

An Act Concerning Protection of Warehouse Workers requires warehouse operators to disclose their various work quotas and work speed metrics to employees and government agencies. It also bans so-called “time off task” penalties that affect the health and safety of employees. The California state legislature passed a similar bill last fall that gives Amazon and other warehouse workers new power to fight speed quotas, which critics say have forced workers to skip bathroom and rest breaks and skirt safety measures.

An Act Concerning Expanding Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries for All Employees would extend existing post-traumatic stress injury workers’ compensation claims coverage – now available mostly to police, fire, corrections, EMS, and other first responders – to all employees for those admittedly rare instances where an employee witnesses or experiences a traumatic event that leads them to being diagnosed with a PTSI.

An Act Concerning Expansion of Connecticut Paid Sick Days would expand the number of paid sick days that employees in Connecticut must receive, bringing us in line with other states. Connecticut state law already requires certain employers with 50 or more employees to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave per year to “service workers,” which is defined as an hourly, nonexempt employee engaged in a broad list of detailed occupation code numbers and titles. In Rhode Island, sick leave applies to employers with 18 or more employees. In Maine, it’s 10, and in New York, five.

An Act Concerning Hero Pandemic Pay for Essential Workers would provide pandemic pay for Connecticut’s essential frontline workers.

An Act Concerning Unemployment Overpayment seeks to address the 2020 state Labor Department overpayment of some unemployment benefits by creating a pathway to waive the repayment requirements for unemployment benefit recipients who were overpaid through no fault of their own.