Despite decades of digital platforms monetizing user data that is collected for other purposes, consumers still lack choice and control over the personal information they provide to companies. The U.S. lacks clear standards that dictate acceptable data collection and use, leaving companies’ data practices largely unmitigated and consumers in the dark about how their information is used.
Companies take advantage of the current notice-and-choice-based privacy paradigm, in which they can ask for and use the information they want as long as they receive consent. As a result, digital platforms grow by burdening consumers to read lengthy privacy disclosures and provide informed consent, rather than taking responsibility themselves to determine a business model that is not reliant on rampant and unnecessary data collection. Once digital platforms amass data, it becomes easier to grow, feeding a positive feedback loop of data-based dominance.
In other words, tech companies collect data that may go beyond the bounds of what is reasonable and necessary to provide their core product or service because they can, and it benefits them to do so. Reasonable data uses are up to the company’s discretion.
While California, Colorado, and other states have passed privacy laws, comprehensive federal privacy legislation is imperative to curtail digital platforms’ widespread data abuses and to protect consumers everywhere, not just in certain states.
Public Knowledge works toward protecting consumers’ privacy by advocating for data minimization, meaningful consent, and effective user controls. Consumers should have the right to access the information a company has about them and to correct, delete, and move that information across platforms. We support a comprehensive federal privacy law that allows for states to expand on those baseline protections and ensures a private right of action so that consumers can act when others cannot on their behalf. Finally, we believe that agencies must be entrusted with broad rulemaking authority to regulate different types of digital platforms and harms that may arise as technology evolves.