How the Biden administration and Congress should protect digital privacy

The Biden administration and the next Congress should make protecting digital privacy a top priority, and 10 leading privacy, civil rights and consumer organizations today released a memo of recommendations for executive actions on Day One, actions during the first 100 days and legislation.

The current Congress has made progress towards crafting effective federal privacy legislation and reached bipartisan agreement on the need for a federal privacy law. The memo calls on the Biden administration and the next Congress to swiftly put in place robust privacy and data justice protections, which include:

  • Appointing privacy, consumer and civil rights experts to key government positions;
  • Passing a baseline, comprehensive federal privacy law that sets up a new federal data protection agency and does not pre-empt state laws;
  • Limiting government surveillance and access to personal data, and protecting health data for all Americans;
  • Protecting children and teens from corporate surveillance and predatory marketing;
  • Recognizing that privacy, digital surveillance and corporate concentration are racial justice issues and ending the systemic surveillance of Black and Brown communities;
  • Setting up sound practices and oversight for algorithms and data management;
  • Ensuring that antitrust regulators account for privacy, civil rights and digital rights impacts in the merger review process; and
  • Empowering the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to robustly enforce privacy protections.

The groups that authored the memo include Public Citizen, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, Color of Change, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, U.S. PIRG and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Recent polling from the Pew Research Center found that three out of four Americans want more government regulation of what companies do with their data. In another poll from Morning Consult, 79% of voters want Congress to craft a bill that improves privacy rights.

“We need urgent action from a Biden administration and Congress to pass laws that act as a federal floor on privacy protections – and create a data protection agency to enforce those laws. We look forward to working with new leadership in our country to protect Americans from predatory business models that profit from unethically harvesting personal data and bringing the companies that enable and execute them to account.”

Jane Chung, big tech accountability advocate, Public Citizen

“We call on those in the White House and in Congress to keep working to achieve bipartisan agreement on a comprehensive federal privacy law addressing all the ways our personal information is used and abused. There is too much at stake to stop the progress to enact privacy law that protects not only the personal data of U.S. consumers but limits the scope of the intended and unintended consequences of automated decision making and biometric tracking.”

Linda Sherry, director of national priorities, Consumer Action

“The new administration should lead the way to achieving strong privacy and digital rights, which are essential to advance opportunity and fair treatment for everyone in the United States.”

Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy, Consumer Federation of America

“Privacy is a basic human right, and children’s personal information should not be profiled, licensed, sold, commercialized or shared with third parties as a condition of attending a public school. We hope policymakers will move to prohibit the use of student data for marketing purposes and require all public schools and education agencies to adopt strict security and privacy standards.”

Leonie Haimson, co-chair, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

“In 2021 and beyond, it is more important than ever that the new administration rise to the challenge and ensure that every American enjoys privacy protections. By protecting privacy for all, and empowering states to continue to innovate, we can rebuild the public trust in technology, reduce harm to vulnerable communities, and pave the way for a brighter, more equitable future.”

Emory Roane, policy counsel, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

“Americans confront an out-of-control online environment that’s devouring our personal information, undermining the privacy of children and families, and creating new threats to economic justice, equality and public health. The next administration and Congress must rein in the tech giants by enacting rules that put the privacy and digital rights of people and communities first.”

Jeff Chester, executive director, Center for Digital Democracy

“The U.S. urgently needs a comprehensive baseline federal privacy law. The Biden administration and Congress should not delay in setting out strong rights for internet users, meaningful obligations on businesses, and establishing a U.S. Data Protection Agency with strong enforcement powers.”

Caitriona Fitzgerald, policy director, Electronic Privacy Information Center

“For far too long, companies have deceptively tracked kids and used their sensitive data to exploit their vulnerabilities and target them with marketing. Families are counting on the Biden administration and the next Congress to recognize that children and teens are vulnerable, and to put protections in place which will allow young people to use the internet more safely.”

David Monahan, campaign manager, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

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