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Proposed bill would make it easier to press charges against tech execs for privacy breaches

A new bill introduced by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren would make it easier to bring criminal charges against corporate executives for the way they handle data breaches and privacy.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren



The Corporate Executive Accountability Act would "establish criminal liability for "negligent executive officers of major corporations, and for other purposes," according to initial wording. Only businesses with over $1 billion in annual revenue would be subject, and it would also be limited to violations affecting 1 percent or more of a state or the nation.

Executives could face a fine and/or a prison sentence up to a year for their first offense, any prison time scaling up to three years for subsequent crimes.

While not limited to data issues, the Act could easily be brought to bear against businesses like Facebook and Equifax, both of which have experienced data breaches affecting millions of U.S. residents. In an editorial published in the Washington Post on Wednesday, Warren — who is running for President — argued that executives too often escape punishment in cases of negligence, and that even when they're forced out of a company, they can leave with millions of dollars in exit pay.

The Senator has made tackling corporate monopolies, corruption, and wealth inequality a centerpiece of her early campaign. Most famously she's proposed breaking up the major U.S. tech platforms, including Apple, specifically suggesting that it should spin off the App Store given that first-party apps have unfair advantages. That would not be unprecendented given previous U.S. breakups of monopolies like AT&T, Microsoft, J.P. Morgan, and Standard Oil.

She also supports "right to repair" legislation, focusing on the farming industry. Apple has opposed such laws, claiming they could expose company secrets and create safety and security problems —but has also said that they would withdraw objections if smartphones were exempt. While there are innumerable third-party Apple repair firms around the world, only Apple and its authorized service providers are able to perform full service in a way that doesn't void warranties.

At present, the company doesn't provide parts or repair manuals outside of its official network.