Despite small business pushback, digital advertising bill advances in Senate committee

by | Apr 24, 2023

  • A Senate bill seeking to regulate the use of personal information by social media and tech companies was reported favorably in the Senate Rules Committee.
  • The bill would prohibit the collection of personal data without consumer authorization and mandate search engines to disclose the way in which their algorithms function.
  • Small business owners fear the bill will disproportionately benefit large corporations and hurt their ability to reach their target audience through digital advertising.

Despite pushback by small business owners statewide, a Senate bill seeking to regulate social media platforms and technology companies that collect and use personal information was reported favorably in the Senate Rules Committee on Monday.

The bill, brought forth by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, would prohibit the collection of a consumer’s geolocation data or personal information through the use of a voice recognition feature unless granted authorization.

Moreover, the legislation mandates search engines to disclose to the consumer how its algorithm prioritizes or deprioritizes political partisanship or political ideology in its search results.

The measure also broadens the definition of “personal information” under the Florida Information Protection Act by including “biometric data,” “genetic information,” and “geolocation data.”

“Thousands and thousands of data points about us each and every day are hoarded by companies who use them to direct targeted advertising to us,” said Bradley. “What we see today is more akin to surveillance advertising. Floridians lack even the most basic control over our information. This bill resets the relationship between consumers and large companies.”

Small business owners, however, contend that the bill would disproportionately benefit large corporations due to the inflated costs associated with running advertisements under the proposed new regulatory framework.

Opposition efforts against the legislation culminated in the drafting of a letter last week signed by over 100 business owners, asserting that the bill’s passage would fundamentally alter the way online advertising spaces operate.

“Digital advertising is incredibly important to my business. For a small amount of money, I can get my business in front of the people that are most likely to be interested and do it for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising,” reads the letter. “Senate Bill 262 will completely change how online ads work, making them more expensive and harder to use. Online ads help small businesses like mine pay less to reach our target audience than buying billboards or, for any of those who can afford it, buying TV ads. Overregulating how data is collected and used will make it harder for me to compete with larger companies with huge marketing budgets.”

Individuals testifying before the Senate Committee, particularly those exclusively working within digital spaces, voiced concerns that their businesses would suffer irreparable financial harm because they would be unable to compete with established publishers who can rely on large subscription bases to recover lost revenue.

“Big publishers like Food & Wine magazine, they’ll do just fine with only contextual ads because they have millions of readers,” said blogger and publisher Lakita Anderson. “I don’t, so this would definitely affect me.”

Further, in an Op-Ed published by The Capitolist, President and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Julio Fuentes echoed concerns, urging state lawmakers to consider the impact on small businesses before proceeding with the proposed legislative proposals.

Fuentes argues that the legislation would hurt the small businesses that rely on digital technology to engage their customers and reach new audiences, ultimately creating barriers between businesses and their consumers.

“At first glance, this bill may seem like a win for Floridians, he wrote. “Maintaining privacy is a good thing after all. But when you take a closer look, it’s clear the legislation would actually create barriers between businesses and their consumers that would make life harder for us all.”

1 Comment

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