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Are Privacy Tides Changing?


Malcom Gladwell writes in his book Tipping Point,

“That is the paradox of the epidemic: that in order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first.”

These small movements may not seem like much until there is a real sea change. But there are moments when you can sense the tides changing, and we may be in the midst of one right now in the data privacy sphere. Could the privacy tides really be changing?

Making Headlines: Facebook & GDPR

The convergence of two major headlines have had a huge impact on privacy awareness this year. First is Facebook’s appearance before Congress in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data abuse scandal. Second is the arrival of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

According to a new Harris X poll, 83% of Americans “favor greater legislative control” over tech companies, with 84% believing companies should be legally responsible for the content they carry on their system. The complete survey goes on to reveal that a majority of Americans believe large tech companies should be regulated much in the same way large banks are regulated, though 38% feel the federal government isn’t up to the task.

GDPR is a sweeping regulation designed to “strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals in the EU” as well as govern “the export of personal data outside the EU.” As GDPR’s May 25th enforcement horizon approaches, the European regulation is having profound effects beyond European borders. Given the global reach of many tech giants, several of the largest are implementing GDPR-compliant policies globally.

Here the sea change is broadly felt, and the rising tide lifts all boats. What was originally intended to strengthen privacy protection in the EU will clearly benefit those of us in the U.S.

But some companies are looking for ways to mitigate the effects of GDPR. And again, Facebook is in the privacy protection spotlight. The company has recently been called out for moving “15 billion users out of reach of the new European privacy law” by relocating responsibility for those users’ accounts from Ireland to California. There’s rising concern “Facebook may be underestimating the challenge it faces in Europe.”

It’s clear there’s still work to do in the U.S. We’ll see if regulators take the opportunity to ride the privacy wave home.

The Call for U.S. Privacy Laws

With the backdrop of privacy coverage in the news, experts say “there’s no better time to pass privacy laws.” These experts are not alone in their thinking. Proposed federal privacy legislation indicates a shift in the willingness of Senators to take up the issue. Presently the BROWSER and MY DATA Acts are in the works, as well as the CONSENT Act. Slate also recently reported on The Social Media Privacy Protection and Consumer Rights Act of 2018.

California, often a leader in consumer privacy laws, has its own proposed ballot initiative – the California Consumer Privacy Act.

The Social Responsibility to Ride Favorable Tides

As someone concerned about privacy rights, now is an excellent time to take advantage of this movement. Take a moment to refresh your commitment to taking social responsibility for your privacy. Engage in discussions and engage with politicians to let them know that privacy matters to you.

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