Reg­u­late firms’ use of pri­vate data

The Republican Herald - - OPINION -

From the ex­po­sure of Face­book’s use of its users’ per­sonal data to crush com­pe­ti­tion, the re­cent rev­e­la­tion that hack­ers had ac­quired per­sonal and fi­nan­cial data tied to 500 mil­lion Mar­riott ho­tel reser­va­tions, cy­berspace has be­come dan­ger­ous ter­ri­tory for con­sumers and any­one who val­ues pri­vacy.

The in­com­ing U. S. House Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity has vowed, ap­pro­pri­ately, to make data pro­tec­tion and per­sonal pri­vacy a top pri­or­ity. They should be ag­gres­sive.

This is a case in which the dam­age of com­pro­mised pri­vacy af­fects not just peo­ple, but in­sti­tu­tions and com­pa­nies. As Cat Zakrzewski of The Wash­ing­ton Post re­cently put it, ev­ery com­pany to­day in­her­ently is a tech­nol­ogy com­pany, rather than those like Face­book, Google and oth­ers for which tech­nol­ogy is their pri­mary busi­ness.

That’s why the Busi­ness Roundtable, a group of more than 200 big banks, re­tail­ers, tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies and oth­ers, has pro­posed its own pri­vacy- pro­mot­ing leg­is­la­tion.

The pro­posal has some valu­able ideas, in­clud­ing uni­form data- pro­tec­tion re­quire­ments rather than vary­ing stan­dards tied to eco­nomic sec­tors, and a na­tional stan­dard for no­ti­fy­ing peo­ple whose data has been breached.

But Democrats should fo­cus more from con­sumers’ per­spec­tive. The fun­da­men­tal rule should be that con­sumers must be asked specif­i­cally to opt in to any so­cial me­dia plat­form’s planned use of their data, and specif­i­cally be in­formed of those plans.

Like­wise, rec­og­niz­ing that pro­tect­ing cus­tomers’ data is a com­pany’s obli­ga­tion, the law should pro­vide penal­ties when they fail to do so. The Euro­pean Union, for ex­am­ple, im­poses fines of up to 4 per­cent of a com­pany’s global revenue if it fails to com­ply with data pri­vacy stan­dards.

Cal­i­for­nia, home of Sil­i­con Val­ley, has adopted a tough pri­vacy pro­tec­tion law that will be im­ple­mented in 2020. An­other key stan­dard is that Congress should not adopt any law weaker than any such law adopted by a state.

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