Articles

11Jun

Preventing Discrimination via a Federal Privacy Bill

A comprehensive federal privacy law could play an important role in the national discussion of race and discrimination. As explained recently by a group which the Insights Association helped to found, Privacy for America, data privacy can play “an outsized role in protecting marginalized communities” in the U.S.

Personal information such as a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity can be used by bad actors online to determine eligibility for vital services like health care or insurance. In some cases, these bad actors charge different prices to different groups for the same goods and services. Privacy laws in America have not kept up with the constantly evolving landscape of the Internet, leaving marginalized communities vulnerable.

Privacy for America finds this situation “unacceptable,” so we aim to eliminate discrimination for consumers in the digital space as part of our proposed federal privacy legislative framework

A starting point is “moving away from the old ‘notice-and-choice’ models of yesterday, which require consumers to review lengthy privacy policies to determine how a company plans to use and share their personal information.” Rather, the Privacy for America approach would prohibit companies “engaging in data practices that are harmful or abusive to consumers, while still ensuring that all Americans can benefit from new and innovative technologies online.

Privacy for America’s equitable legislation “would outright prohibit a range of dangerous practices that put personal data at risk and hold companies more accountable. Rather than asking for consent, the framework would ban the use of personal information to determine if someone is eligible for employment, credit, insurance, health care, education admissions, financial aid or housing, outside of existing federal laws, strengthening the protections already in place. And it would also ban the practice of charging an individual a higher price for any product or service based on personal traits such as race, religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Finally, the framework provides these broad-based protections to all Americans, no matter where they live, rather than relying on a patchwork set of federal and state laws that don’t provide clear protections for everyone.

Privacy for America urges Congress to help “protect all Americans, including underserved communities across the country.”

About the Author

Howard Fienberg

Howard Fienberg

Based in Washington, DC, Howard is the Insights Association's lobbyist for the marketing research and data analytics industry, focusing primarily on consumer privacy and data security, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), tort reform, and the funding and integrity of the decennial Census and the American Community Survey (ACS). Howard has more than two decades of public policy experience. Before the Insights Association, he worked in Congress as senior legislative staffer for then-Representatives Christopher Cox (CA-48) and Cliff Stearns (FL-06). He also served more than four years with a science policy think tank, working to improve the understanding of scientific and social research and methodology among journalists and policymakers. Howard is also co-director of The Census Project, a 900+ member coalition in support of a fair and accurate Census and ACS. He has also served previously on the Board of Directors for the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics and and the Association of Government Relations Professionals. Howard has an MA International Relations from the University of Essex in England and a BA Honors Political Studies from Trent University in Canada, and has obtained the Certified Association Executive (CAE), Professional Lobbying Certificate (PLC) and the Public Policy Certificate (PPC). When not running advocacy for the Insights Association, Howard enjoys hockey, NFL football, sci-fi and horror movies, playing with his dog, and spending time with family and friends.

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