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An American Privacy Framework

  • date icon September 26, 2018
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    • Michael Beckerman

Data has revolutionized every part of our economy and daily lives, both online and offline. Thanks to data, we can get to work on time with efficient navigation, find the perfect playlist based on curated recommendations, and see faces of loved ones hundreds of miles apart.

Americans deserve, and internet companies support, a modern approach to privacy regulation that meets consumer demands and provides a clear and consistent national framework from coast to coast. This approach must include a new federal law that protects personal data and provides people with more control over how the data they share is collected, used, and shared online and offline.

It might be surprising for an industry to be out front calling for new government regulations, but we recognize that consumers and companies both benefit from certainty in the rules that govern  how personal data is collected, used, and protected.

The internet industry recently proposed detailed privacy principles for lawmakers to consider when developing new privacy regulation. Our recommendations aim to empower individuals online, prevent abuses, enable companies to act as good stewards and protectors of consumers’ personal information, and support continued innovation of new products and services that people love.

A globally respected American regulatory framework must prioritize protecting individuals’ most sensitive personal information and foster trust through meaningful transparency. We believe this can be done by empowering people to better understand and control how personal information they share is collected, used, and protected. People should also have reasonable access to the data they provide organizations, and to be able to move, correct, and delete their personal information when it’s no longer necessary to provide a service.

Federal privacy legislation should be a national, economy-wide priority—and not just for internet-based companies. Data is at the core of all modern U.S. businesses both online and offline, across every sector of the economy. For consumers to benefit from this transformation, there needs to be new rules of the road for everyone in the economy and society. A modernized national framework must meet consumer expectations that not all data is the same and the context of how data is used matters. To do this, the national framework should take into consideration the sensitivity of the personal information, the context of its collection and use, and the risk of tangible harm for its misuse or unauthorized access. This risk-based approach will protect consumers when they need it most and also recognize that data—even the same piece of information—can present different harms based on who has it and how it is being used.

Today, more than ever before, there is broad consensus around the need for national privacy legislation and what that framework should look like. The internet is a borderless medium, and data is used economy-wide, both online and offline. All stakeholders must work with urgency to modernize a national privacy framework in a way that protects Americans and allows for future innovation.