Data protection and privacy have suddenly become the biggest issues in the US. People now talk about Internet privacy and data protection more than ever. It’s not like Internet users never knew that tech companies collect their personal data.
A Game Changer
It’s just that not many were aware of how this information is misused until the Facebook data leak scandal this year. Although privacy breaches are not new, the Cambridge Analytica data leak took things to an all new height. Nothing had ever shaken the tech industry around the world as this incident did.
Even 60 Minutes go into the action with an excellent segment blowing up Facebook and how this situation came out. Apple even criticized Facebook but who is Apple to criticize a company over policy? Apple sided with terrorists and not the US government over the San Bernardino massacre via terrorists. Dead bodies were in the street and Apple would not give up one password!
Moreover, the incident involved a third party quiz app on Facebook mining data user data on behalf of political firm Cambridge Analytica.
The data was used to predict voting trends in the 2016 presidential elections. Many believe that the European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation to protect its citizens from such data leaks.
At the same time that Mark Zuckerberg was testifying in front of the US Senate, the open Internet regulation in the US was dying a silent death.
A License to Spy
Net neutrality was abolished. ISPs now had all the right to not only monitor user activities but also block websites and applications. Several states in the US do not support this violation of Internet privacy and have started to come up with their own data protection regulations. The DoJ, however, see this as unconstitutional and is even suing the State of California for passing its own Net Neutrality bill.
There is currently no federal privacy law in the country. Different regulations in different states have made the situation tough for tech companies. This has also built pressure on the government to form a uniform privacy law for the entire country.
California Law Worries Corporations
The GDPR made the world sit up and take notice. Until this regulation came into effect businesses had a free run, gathering consumer data and also sharing and selling it.
A lot of netizens are aware that tech companies collect personal information for providing us with their services. Not many were aware of the extent of the selling and misuse of data though. The GDPR not only shook the entire business world but also made the general public aware of their data protection rights.
Inspired by the European Union’s move, various states in the US have also been framing their own privacy laws.
The biggest uproar was caused by the formation of the California Consumer Privacy Act; a data protection regulation that is almost as stringent as the GDPR.
According to the regulation businesses that use consumer data have to clearly disclose what kinds of information they collect, who they share it with and also provide users with the option to not give their consent, take back their consent, and demand the deletion of their data.
It goes without saying that once consumers are aware of the data collection that happens without their consent, they will not choose to opt in. Tech companies have been built on user data. They are the ones who are going to suffer the worst if consumers do not allow their data to be collected any longer.
This, coupled with the fact that different regulations will have different compliance rules, has lead the business world as well as consumer groups to seek a uniform privacy law for the whole country.
It is no surprise that any economy is controlled by business groups. They have a say in the way the country functions. The same applies to data protection regulations in the US. Tech companies do not want any oversight. Neither do they want to comply with such strict regulations or consumers to have power.
Therefore they will act behind the scenes to make sure that privacy laws passed by individual states are weaker than the CCPA. In fact, this is one of the biggest fears regarding a privacy law; that business groups will manipulate it to suit their own interests.
That is the reason why consumer groups want a uniform privacy law for the whole country at the federal level. Telecom companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, as well as tech giants like Facebook and Google are all guilty of privacy breaches. Information is vital.
They are set to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee, while the Republican chairman, Sen. John Thune works on a new privacy law. Various consumer rights groups have requested Thune to give consumers equal opportunity as the businesses in the process.
While the government tries yet again to pass a single privacy law for the whole country, industry groups have been releasing their own version of what should go into the regulation. Needless to say, they want regulations that do not prevent them from collecting user data.
But consumer groups are equally strong this time and have been fighting to restrain businesses from crossing their data collection limits. Netizens simply should not have to rely on tools such as VPNs to keep their online privacy intact. With the industry and the consumers at loggerheads, we will have to wait and see if the government is successful in passing a privacy law that suits everyone.