It is no secret that lawmakers in Washington are intent on taking action on technology policy. We’ve heard considerable noise this year from lawmakers looking to overhaul the government’s approach to regulating the technology industry, most recently culminating in an antitrust bill spear-headed by our Senator Amy Klobuchar that was unveiled this week. This legislation would not only break critical online platforms and have real consequences for minority-owned small business owners who rely on digital tools, but it has lawmakers barking up the wrong tree.
If policy leaders in Washington are truly interested in getting something done on a tech-related policy issue, they need to turn their attention to enacting a federal privacy framework. Are you more concerned about the protection of your personal data, or with the structure of companies that deliver some of the most cutting-edge and time-saving consumer tools?
Recent data from asurvey conducted by the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) reinforces the obvious answer to that question. When it comes to technology issues, voters are vastly more concerned with how their data is handled than they are interested in seeing the tools they use every day broken as a result of dismantled tech companies and over-regulation.
Rightfully so. In an increasingly digitalized, global, and data-driven world, the protection of personal and business data should be paramount. Consumers and small businesses across Minnesota each generate billions of data points through their online activity. Ensuring that this personal information remains safe and secure is essential.
It is crucial that the policy framework surrounding these privacy issues matches the level of importance that data security has in our daily lives. While individual companies have made commitments and internal policy updates over the years, universal consumer and small business protections outlined by the federal government are needed.
The patchwork of state legislation popping up across the country is not only insufficient but invites a thicket of mis-matching regulations for business owners to manage – particularly for businesses who operate across state lines which, today, is nearly every business.
Of course, if Congress is to move forward with federal legislation on privacy, it’s imperative that they get it right. As we’ve seen with the aforementioned state legislative proposals, and even regulations put in place in Europe, privacy legislation can be incredibly costly. Particularly policies that include a private right of action provision, which haveproven to result in overly burdensome costs on businesses.
At its core, a federal privacy framework must be focused on demanding responsible data collection, transparency, and security. Policymaking must center around the need for companies to take responsibility for the consumer and business data that they manage. And transparency will of course be key – consumers should be notified and made wholly aware of not only the data that is being collected, but how that data is being used. But again, this can – and must – be done in a way that limits costs on businesses. Inviting a flood of civil suits through a private right of action provision must be avoided.
The antitrust hawks of today are riding high on the belief that they are protecting consumers. If they are truly consumer advocates, they would turn their attention toward federal privacy legislation – these are the technology policy issues that impact consumers on a daily, hourly, and minute-by-minute basis.