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These days, people share a lot of information online, from photos to financial records to legal documents. In fact, data sharing has revolutionized our society, allowing us to communicate faster, run a business better, and live easier than anyone ever has.
But as we continue to upload more of our lives to the ether, our privacy is at greater risk. Every day brings news of a breach or abuse of our personal data, leading many of us to wonder if our information is truly safe online.
Given the breadth of companies across the economy that collect and use our data – credit cards, airlines, car rental services – the question of privacy needs to be answered. The American people agree: according to Pew, 68 percent of Americans feel that current laws aren’t doing enough to protect their data. At the same time, very few Americans reported confidence in businesses and organizations to keep personal data safe.
Lawmakers in Washington are attempting to heed the call by holding hearings and tossing out a few policy proposals. But there’s been little real movement toward major privacy legislation at the federal level. As a result, states are taking the wheel.
With most policies, it’s better when states experiment and find their own solutions. But this is not most policies. If Congress doesn’t act, every state in the Union could be stuck with radically liberal policies from progressive states, potentially devastating the U.S. economy and workforce.
Exhibit A: California.
Recently, California passed a sweeping set of privacy policies called the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) modeled after the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). CCPA, like its European counterpart, drastically alters data sharing for businesses and individuals.
Some of its provisions regarding consumer rights and transparency are welcome. But the bill was rushed through over a weekend and passed with little time for deliberation, and since then, it’s flaws have come to light. It’s now clear this bill misses the mark and could have a disastrous impact on businesses across the economy.
For starters, it’s packed with onerous regulations that make it harder for businesses to use the data necessary to give consumers the products they desire, such as making it harder for companies like Uber or Lyft to access your location when you need a ride. But it’s not just large tech companies feeling the heat.
As someone who goes to work every day to help startups get on their feet, I see firsthand how important the internet is in the modern economy. Small and medium-sized companies all across the U.S. rely on the internet for everything from sales to marketing. If the tools of the internet are more expensive or less efficient due to overregulation, countless businesses could take a serious hit.
In addition, the CCPA creates new privacy concerns while attempting to mitigate others. For example, the bill states that consumers have the right to view data that was collected from their household, not just themselves. That means spouses or even roommates could potentially access information that they shouldn’t.
California is no stranger to badly written laws, but most Americans don’t live in California and don’t have to care. However, when the CCPA goes into effect next year, it could impact every other state. That’s because businesses forced to comply with California’s laws would have no choice but to enact the same policies across the country, for efficiency’s sake.
So it wouldn’t just be Golden State businesses bearing the brunt of this flawed bill. It would be every business that relies on the internet, everywhere in America.
New privacy regulations won’t be contained to California for long. According to The Washington Post, “Other states this year have sprung to action in a bid to follow California’s lead,” including New Mexico, Massachusetts, and Washington, to name a few.
If more states adopt their own Euro/Cali-style privacy laws, it would create a tapestry of chaos that would weaken the internet, damage our economy, and hurt business’ ability to provide services to consumers.
The only way to prevent progressive states from foisting faulty policies on the rest of America is for Congress to pass a national privacy framework that upholds the benefits of data sharing while protecting the privacy of consumers. It’s a delicate balance to make, but it’s one we can’t ignore much longer.
Matt Cordio is co-founder and president of Skills Pipeline, a technology talent solutions company, as well as the founder of Startup Milwaukee.