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Connecticut lawmakers consider data privacy bill amid investigation of the harms of TikTok

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As Connecticut joins a national investigation of the social media company TikTok, state lawmakers will consider legislation to strengthen data privacy.

A bipartisan group of state attorneys general, including William Tong of Connecticut, have opened an investigation into TikTok and potential harms that the popular social media app may pose to younger users. The focus is on how the app, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, tries to boost engagement and keep young users hooked.

The Connecticut data privacy bill would require companies to tell consumers what data is being collected, how it’s being used and why. It would also give consumers the right to delete personal information held by businesses and service providers. Children under age of 16 would have to provide opt-in consent — and for under age 13, it requires parental consent.

The bill received mixed reviews during a public hearing in the General Law Committee.

Ryan Harkins of Microsoft urged lawmakers to pass the bill.

“It would build upon the European Union General Protection regulation or GDPR. It would build upon the laws that have already passed in the United States in California, Virginia and Colorado, and we would encourage you to pass it,” said Harkin.

Connecticut retailers are not buying that.

“We cannot support the current language because it could result in a reduction in the number and variety of customer loyalty programs offered to the Connecticut consumer. We don’t believe this is good public policy. And it’s not what consumers expect from our industry,” said Tim Phelan of the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association.

Last year, a similar data privacy bill got favorable votes in three committees, but was never voted on by the Legislature.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.