In recent decades, privacy has become one of the most important issues on the minds of lawmakers. With the rise of digital devices that can track our every move, the desire for privacy is growing in an increasingly public society. And while many Americans have a general desire for “privacy,” the amount you receive is heavily dependent on where you live. While there are some federal privacy laws, most consumer privacy comes from state-level bills. And while some states have thorough, fair privacy laws on the books, the vast majority simply do not.
America’s focus on state-led privacy laws is in contrast to Europe’s lawmaking; the European Union’s main privacy law is the General Data Protection Regulation. Because of this, privacy in the E.U. is governed by this one law, and 92% of companies believe they can comply with every aspect of the law . Because Europe has one overarching privacy law, it is much simpler to understand your privacy rights, whether as an individual or a business. Unfortunately, in the United States though, it is quite the opposite. Privacy laws in the country are currently a mishmash of federal and state laws that confuse and harm individuals simply trying to protect themselves.
A Barrage of State Bills
Simply put, U.S. privacy laws are so unorganized because there are so many of them. Even at the federal level, there isn’t an all-encompassing privacy law, but a collection of specialized laws. For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects medical privacy, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects students, educators, and schools. When it comes to privacy rights, at least at the federal level, it really depends on your specific situation. Although laws such as HIPAA and FERPA do an adequate job of protecting privacy, they are far too specific to offer comprehensive privacy rights that extend to every facet of life.
While federal-level laws are specific to industries, some state-level laws provide all-encompassing privacy protections. Unfortunately, those state laws are few and far between. Only California, Colorado and Virginia have comprehensive data privacy laws . These laws give consumers notice and choice regarding their data. For example, under these laws, a company must tell consumers if it is selling their data, and must allow consumers to access, move, or entirely delete that data. However, while these laws are certainly a good starting point for true consumer privacy, even these three bills are quite limited in effect.
Why are Privacy Protections so Poor?
While those three states have “all-encompassing” privacy laws, they still have glaring holes in protection. In every state except California, privacy laws specifically exclude a “private right of action,” or the ability to sue a business for privacy violations as an individual. Additionally, Virginia’s law has no civil rights protections and allows businesses to continue the status quo of collecting and selling consumer data . It’s no wonder that Amazon lobbyists wrote the first draft of Virginia’s privacy bill .
For other states, the situation is even grimmer. States like Florida, Georgia, and others don’t allow consumers to opt out of data sharing. These two states also don’t even require government entities to ever dispose of your data . Ultimately, most states have few genuine protections for consumers. For the most part, businesses can do whatever they please once they have your data.
And due to strong lobbying by tech companies, it will likely remain this way in many states . Big Tech companies pay millions each year to lobby lawmakers to write and support laws favorable to them. For example, Facebook spent nearly USD $20 million in lobbying in 2020, while Amazon spent USD $18 million . And while this lobbying doesn’t come cheap, it’s a lot cheaper than allowing consumers to opt out of data sales. Ultimately, the reason why so many states don’t offer comprehensive privacy laws is because Big Tech doesn’t want them. Put simply, Big Tech is willing to pay big money to keep strong privacy laws off the books.
So, What Can We Do?
In most states, it’s now up to individual businesses and firms to protect consumer data. And while Big Tech is unlikely to change any time soon, other businesses can still fight for consumer privacy. Taking simple steps like encrypting documents and backing up your data offline can substantially better protect your clients’ data. After all, Americans want privacy. By taking steps to protect customers and their data, businesses and firms can offer what Big Tech can’t: True privacy protections for their customers.
At an individual level, supporting businesses and firms that prioritize privacy is the best way to show support for strong privacy laws. Additionally, simply supporting federal or state laws that give genuine privacy rights to consumers is another great way to stand up for privacy rights. Since Big Tech wants to continue the status quo of endless data collection and sales, it’s up to individuals to support businesses and firms that offer what Big Tech can’t.
AXEL Supports Your Privacy
At AXEL, we believe privacy is a right. And unlike the Big Tech companies, we’ll never sell your data to third parties, ensuring your data is only yours. Our file-sharing and storage application, AXEL Go, uses blockchain technology and AES 256-bit encryption to provide the most secure file-sharing system in the industry. Whether for business or personal use, AXEL Go helps protect your (and your clients’) most important files.
Sign up here to receive a free 14-day trial of AXEL Go Premium. After the trial period, you can choose to continue your Premium account for just $9.99/month or use our Basic service free of charge. After all, our business is protecting your data, not collecting it. Together, we can help prioritize privacy rights across the country.
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 Klosowski, Thorin. “The State of Consumer Data Privacy Laws in the US (And Why It Matters).” The New York Times. September 06, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/blog/state-of-privacy-laws-in-us/.
 Birnbaum, Emily. “From Washington to Florida, Here Are Big Tech’s Biggest Threats from States.” Protocol. February 19, 2021. https://www.protocol.com/policy/virginia-maryland-washington-big-tech.
 McNabb, Joanne, and Paul Bischoff. “Internet Privacy Laws by US State: Does Yours Protect Online Privacy?” Comparitech. July 29, 2021. https://www.comparitech.com/blog/vpn-privacy/which-us-states-best-protect-online-privacy/.
 Tracy, Ryan, Chad Day, and Anthony DeBarros. “Facebook and Amazon Boosted Lobbying Spending in 2020.” The Wall Street Journal. January 24, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-and-amazon-boosted-lobbying-spending-in-2020-11611500400.