Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Vermont Legislature passes data privacy bill that could shape national efforts

Vermont lawmakers passed a data privacy bill that relates to protecting personal health informatoin, among other categories of sensitive data.
DragonImages/Getty Images
Vermont lawmakers passed a data privacy bill that relates to protecting personal health informatoin, among other categories of sensitive data such as geolocation and biometric data.

Legislation that would give Vermonters the ability to sue large data brokers that misuse their personal information is being heralded as the strongest data privacy bill in the country, but Republican Gov. Phil Scott has indicated he may veto the measure.

An eleventh-hour compromise between House and Senate lawmakers late last week cleared the path for legislation that would prohibit the sale of sensitive data, and allow consumers to file civil suits against companies that violate data-privacy regulations.

Bradford Rep. Monique Priestley, a Democrat, said lack of action in Congress to rein in Big Tech has compelled states to exert more control over companies that collect and sell consumers’ data. And she said she hopes Vermont’s reform effort will eventually become a national model.

“In order for us to have strong protections at the national level, each state needs to help move the needle a little bit further, so that when there is a national model, it’ll be based on whatever’s collectively the strongest,” Priestley told Vermont Public on Monday.

National consumer protection groups, including Consumer Reports and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, say the bill could mark a “turning point” in state privacy laws.

“The inclusion of a private right of action in this law, while limited, is enormously significant,” said Matt Schwartz, a policy analyst at Consumer Reports. “It means that consumers who have been harmed by Big Tech’s data abuses will actually be granted the ability to defend their rights.”

That private right of action, which gives consumers the legal standing needed to file suit against data brokers that misuse their data, is one of the main reasons Scott may veto the bill.

Opponents of the legislation say it could open the door to frivolous legal suits against Vermont companies. A spokesperson for the governor said Monday that Scott is “uncomfortable” with that element of the bill.

“The governor has not yet decided what he’ll do when the bill reaches him,” said Scott’s spokesperson, Jason Maulucci.

The legislation could also provide new protections for children on social media. Chittenden County Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale said the bill would force tech companies to get rid of the most addictive features on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.

“We are part of a national movement to stand up to Big Tech and say, ‘enough is enough’ when it comes to social media addiction and the health of our young people,” she said.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.


Corrected: May 14, 2024 at 1:58 PM EDT
A previous version of this story misspelled the word 'addiction.'
The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
Latest Stories