Postings

White House must prioritize privacy and equity in COVID-19 response
In a letter to Vice President Michael R. Pence, who leads the Coronavirus Task Force, coalition advocates called on the government to set guidelines to protect individuals’ privacy, ensure equity in the treatment of individuals and communities and communicate clearly about public health objectives in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congress: Pass a clean budget for FY2021
Advocates called on Congress to pass an upcoming federal budget that funds the things that Americans care about, not undo essential consumer and environmental safeguards through policy riders. Policy riders are attached to legislation and rarely have anything to do with the bill. In fact, most riders are handouts to big corporations and special favors for interest groups that could not become law on their own merits. As Congress prepares the federal budget for fiscal year 2021, no appropriations titles, package of bills, or continuing resolutions should pass if they contain poison pill policy riders that go against the public interest, including policies that ensure safe and healthy food, restrain Wall Street abuses, provide access to justice and fair housing, and guarantee access to safe healthcare.

Backlash grows over use of facial recognition
In a letter to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent agency in the executive branch, consumer, privacy and civil liberties groups urged President Trump and his administration to prohibit the federal government from using facial surveillance on the American public. Advocates are ringing the alarm after a recent federal study by The National Institute of Standards and Technology found pervasive racial bias in facial surveillance technology, and a New York Times investigation found a startup, Clearview AI, was stockpiling more than 3 billion photos from online sites and offering them up to help law enforcement match photos of suspects to pictures online. Considering the startup’s obvious violations of existing privacy laws, and the prevalent bias and discrimination in the facial recognition systems that are currently in use, advocates recommend a blanket moratorium on the technology.

Congress tackles Americans’ desire for more online privacy
In a joint letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, coalition members called on the committee to enact stronger privacy protections online. The letter explains that out of the three recent privacy bills introduced in committee, the “Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act” (COPRA) is one of the strongest pieces of privacy legislation in the Senate and that it largely satisfies the four principles of the Public Interest Privacy Legislation Principles, which Consumer Action signed onto last November.

Consumer Action joins the Ban Facial Recognition Campaign
Facial recognition surveillance is biased, invasive and it violates basic rights. Members of a new coalition privacy effort, the Ban Facial Recognition Campaign, are urging Congress to pass legislation that bans the government from using this dangerous technology to spy on the American public.

Vehicle owners should have control over their vehicle’s data
Consumer Action signed on to the U.S. Vehicle Data Access Coalition’s comment letter regarding bi-partisan and bi-cameral autonomous vehicle legislation to members of Congress. The coalition has the federal legislative goal to reaffirm and codify a motor vehicle owner’s right to control the motor vehicle data generated by their vehicles.

The never-ending scourge of unwanted calls continues to plague Americans
As consumers continue to be overwhelmed with unwanted robocalls, advocates urge the Federal Communications Commission to go beyond its initial proposal and require phone companies to implement caller-ID authentication technology, opt-out tools for scam calls, and opt-in call-blocking tools for other unwanted calls.

Equifax data breach demonstrates the need for stronger cybersecurity regulation
As the Federal Trade Commission proposes amendments to its Safeguards Rule, consumer and privacy advocates urge for stronger data privacy regulations regarding nationwide consumer reporting agencies, including Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, and other high-risk sectors, including tax preparers and financial technology firms.

Personal data has potential to fuel discrimination
26 civil society organizations sent a letter to Congress calling on legislators to ensure that any federal privacy legislation addresses the discriminatory impacts of commercial data practices and protects people of color, women, religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, persons with disabilities, persons living on low income, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations.

Advocates tackle data-driven discrimination
Big Data has the potential to create racial and social inequalities, and make existing discrimination even worse. While civil rights protections have existed in brick-and-mortar commerce for decades, they are largely missing from the internet economy. Online services should not be permitted to use consumer data to discriminate against protected classes or deny them opportunities in commerce, housing, employment, or full participation in our democracy.

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