One Nation, Fifty Privacy Laws? 3 Reasons Why Washington Needs to Lead the Privacy Debate

Woman with phone and laptop standing near a government building.

With more and more of our daily activity taking place online, and with the proliferation of devices – like smart speakers, home security cameras, and virtual assistants – that are able to “listen” and “watch” us at all times, it’s understandable that our fears about online privacy are growing. We all want to know: who is collecting our information, and what’s being done with it? As a result of these fears, three in four Americans are now making a conscious choice to share less personal information online.

Yet, despite consumer demand and a bipartisan consensus on the need for a federal online privacy law, Washington has yet to act on this issue. Here are three reasons why federal regulation is so urgently needed.

1. Consistency

In the absence of federal oversight, consumers and businesses are subjected to a patchwork of 50 different state laws regarding privacy. This is confusing – and potentially unsafe for consumers. Why should our privacy protections be reduced if we travel to a different state? Why should some of us have fewer protections, based on where we happen to live in the U.S.? It should not require a degree in computer engineering to understand how we are being protected and what happens to our data when we move or travel.

2. Control

As consumers, we deserve greater control over our privacy, and easier ways to wield such control. Researchers calculated that the current process of reading privacy agreements is so time consuming that, if done for every website visited, it would take each person an average of 76 work days per year to complete. This situation places an untenable burden on consumers while not providing adequate safeguards. A national privacy framework should empower consumers with simple ways to control the use of their personal information. In addition, consumers should understand how their information is being collected and used, and have confidence that companies are following the proper security measures to protect data that’s being collected or stored.

3. Confidence

According to a recent Pew survey, 79% of U.S. adults are concerned about how companies use the data they collect about them. The same survey found that a majority of U.S. adults follow privacy news “very closely” or “somewhat closely.” Bottom line? Consumers are crying out for information, guidance, and reassurance over online privacy. A federal privacy law, and the protections it provides, would provide a boost of confidence in online transactions and businesses, assuaging consumer concerns and restoring trust to the digital economy, which accounts for 7% of U.S. GDP and is only projected to expand.

We Need a National Law

With so much of our daily lives taking place online, we need Congress to pass a national privacy law to provide consumers with consistency, control, and confidence in the data they share online. There’s widespread consensus on many of these issues; what is needed now is a sensible legislative solution.

Want to learn more about the need for a national privacy framework? Visit our Go Public to Stay Private page for more information.