Small businesses bracing for negative impact of so-called “Digital Bill of Rights”

by | May 12, 2023

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign a “Digital Bill of Rights” aimed at protecting consumer privacy online.
  • But the bill is causing major concerns among small business owners due that it will limit the effectiveness of digital advertising, resulting in lost sales and more expensive marketing costs.
  • Critics also say that the legislation doesn’t hold big tech companies accountable because they’ll charge even higher rates for the same digital ads even though they are less effective for small business owners.

While Governor Ron DeSantis still has over 100 recently-passed bills to sign into law, one of them, Senate Bill 262, could have dire consequences for small business owners. The bill, dubbed a “digital bill of rights” by politicians, passed the Republican-controlled legislature with minimal opposition. The measure is designed to regulate how social media platforms and tech companies collect and use personal information.

On the surface, it sounds great. Every consumer and social media user should expect some measure of privacy and protection of their personal information. But critics say the bill’s ill effects won’t really impact big social media companies all that much. But small business owners and advocates say the bill’s broad definition of “personal information” extends to aggregated data that is not personally identifiable even when it’s used for targeted advertising.

“Without digital tools, many small businesses will no longer be able to compete with big box stores, nor would they be able to connect with those who need or want their services,” said Julio Fuentes, CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Fuentes notes that the bill might lead tech platforms to raise their prices for access to digital marketing information, which small businesses rely on to reach customers more effectively. The higher prices those business pay will be made even worse, Fuentes says, because the marketing data the businesses pay for won’t be as effective under the new law.

That ultimately hurts small business far more than it hinders larger tech companies, who will still make plenty of money and can afford to pay more for their own targeted advertising. Meanwhile, critics point out, small business owners will find effective and affordable advertising out of the reach.

Proponents, meanwhile, cite an urgent need to address increasing privacy concerns and data breaches. But small business advocates argue there are plenty of ways to crack down on data breaches and privacy abuses by big tech companies without hamstringing small business owners who need access to affordable marketing data.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) has also weighed in on the side of small businesses. Khara Boender, State Policy Director for CCIA, warned that the legislation could restrict digital services available to Florida consumers and stifle innovation. She cautioned that the bill’s restrictions could place a disproportionate burden on small businesses, impeding their advertising and fundraising efforts.

While Governor Ron Desantis is likely to sign the bill in the coming weeks, industry observers say one of the most immediate effects is that the bill could prompt a switch from digital advertising to subscription-based models, which poses another significant concern. The change could effectively reduce the amount of “free” content online and limit businesses’ ability to target advertisements to consumers who are genuinely interested in their products.


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