Meeting the moment with a federal data privacy law that prohibits using data to discriminate against individuals
Over the last year, Americans have come to expect policymakers to do more to prevent discrimination against minority and underserved communities in the United States. A 2020 AP-NORC poll found that 24 percent of Americans would like the government to be working on racism in the coming year, up from just 10 percent in 2019. It’s clear that constituents are increasingly demanding legislative and regulatory solutions from their government representatives to help ensure equal and just treatment for all Americans.
But discrimination is not just an offline issue. As policymakers work to fill the many gaps that still exist, it is important to consider how data privacy plays an outsized role in protecting marginalized communities in this country.
Personal information such as a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity can be used by bad actors online to determine eligibility for vital services like health care or insurance. In some cases, these bad actors charge different prices to different groups for the same goods and services. Privacy laws in America have not kept up with the constantly evolving landscape of the Internet, leaving marginalized communities vulnerable. The personal information they may share to conduct normal, daily activities online can be used against them. And this is unacceptable.
Protecting personal data for consumers as they browse the internet is critical to eliminating this discrimination. And it starts with moving away from the old “notice-and-choice” models of yesterday, which require consumers to review lengthy privacy policies to determine how a company plans to use and share their personal information. Instead, companies should be prohibited from engaging in data practices that are harmful or abusive to consumers, while still ensuring that all Americans can benefit from new and innovative technologies online.
Privacy for America’s framework envisions equitable legislation that would outright prohibit a range of dangerous practices that put personal data at risk and hold companies more accountable. Rather than asking for consent, the framework would ban the use of personal information to determine if someone is eligible for employment, credit, insurance, health care, education admissions, financial aid or housing, outside of existing federal laws, strengthening the protections already in place. And it would also ban the practice of charging an individual a higher price for any product or service based on personal traits such as race, religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Finally, the framework provides these broad-based protections to all Americans, no matter where they live, rather than relying on a patchwork set of federal and state laws that don’t provide clear protections for everyone.
With 83 percent of voters reporting data privacy should be a high priority for Congress this year, now is the time to act to protect all Americans, including underserved communities across the country.
To learn more about our approach, read our comprehensive policy principles here.