It’s that time of year again! This week is Data Privacy Week, an annual campaign to help spread awareness about online privacy and educate users on how to manage their personal information and keep it secure. While contentious technology proposals seem to dominate headlines, most notably antitrust proposals which exacerbate data privacy concerns, Americans have been clear and consistent: privacy and online security are their top priorities.
Unfortunately, that message has yet to resonate with Congress and translate into a comprehensive, national privacy law. This has understandably resulted in states pursuing their own consumer privacy policies. California and Virginia’s laws have already gone into effect, and dozens of other states are scrambling to pass their own, leading to an emerging patchwork of laws and risking crucial consumer protections falling through the cracks. Additionally, in the absence of congressional action, we risk letting others, like the European Union, drive global policy or letting the Federal Trade Commission attempt to invent a new regulatory privacy framework without congressional input.
On the positive side, some meaningful progress was made last year by a group of bicameral, bipartisan policymakers. Reps. Frank Pallone, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Sen. Roger Wicker released a comprehensive national data privacy and security framework. They built on a growing consensus that we need to better protect consumer privacy by minimizing data collection, increasing transparency and user control of data. The bill is notable in that lawmakers came to an agreement on a couple key issues that have vexed them for years and kept progress stalled: how to handle preemption and enforcement. And while the bill still needs some work, it represents a significant step forward. There is hope that, even in a closely divided Congress, policymakers can further build on these efforts in the coming year.
NetChoice has long supported increased privacy protections, and we welcome this forward movement. When data is misused and when consumers find their trust is misplaced, it hurts not just the whole digital ecosystem, but the potential for future technological innovation. This week should serve as a message to lawmakers: the privacy and security of Americans’ data should be a priority, and 2023 should be the year of national privacy reform.