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Executives may face jail over data privacy policies in draft U.S. bill

(Bloomberg) --A Democratic senator on Thursday released a draft bill that would impose steep fines and even prison time for executives at corporations that fail to adequately safeguard Americans’ personal data.

Under the bill, proposed by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, the Federal Trade Commission would be allowed to assess fines of as much as 4 percent of a company’s annual revenue and impose sentences of as long as 20 years on corporate officers if companies are found to have violated privacy regulations.

The bill also gives the FTC the power to let customers stop companies from sharing or selling their data or targeting advertisements based on personal information. The commission could also establish minimum privacy and cybersecurity standards.

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Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, questions Charles Rettig, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, during a confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 28, 2018. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Some of the nation’s largest technology companies and industry groups have said they favor federal consumer privacy regulations in the face of growing pressure from lawmakers, privacy advocates and President Donald Trump’s administration, who say more regulation may be needed to safeguard the personal information of consumers.

Still, Wyden’s bill is an extreme departure from the principles proposed by industry groups and even some privacy advocates who’ve called for stricter privacy safeguards. The path for any legislation would also depend on the partisan composition of Congress after midterm elections.