What New U.S. Data Privacy Laws Mean for Business

December 7, 2018

What New U.S. Data Privacy Laws Mean for Business

What New U.S. Data Privacy Laws Mean for Business

Did you notice? Google Play Store no longer displays the list of permissions an app demands when you hit "Install". Ironically, dozens of Play Store apps were found to be covertly siphoning sensitive user data in November. Meanwhile, revelations that Facebook sells access to user data have shaken the public's confidence in the social media giant.

When two of the world's largest companies - which strive to project themselves as stalwarts of user interests - fail so miserably, can we really trust any of them? Apparently not.

Digital security specialist, Symantec reports that 4.5 billion records were illegally accessed in the first half of 2018 alone. That figure represents a 133 percent increase over 2017 and is based only on incidents which have been publicly acknowledged.

Better Late than Never

Following the European Union's lead with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), U.S. legislators are waking up.

Alarmed over the lack of real action from the tech industry, twelve U.S. states have either strengthened existing privacy regulations over the past year or are introducing a slew of local laws. The goal is to bring some degree of accountability for the tech giants. All 50 U.S. states now have some form of data breach notification laws, which compel businesses to notify consumers whose personal information is compromised.

Perhaps because it is home to so many technology behemoths, California is especially concerned. The first significant step the state has taken to protect consumers is the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. It was signed into law in June and will be enforced starting in 2020.

The Act was originally designed as a more stringent initiative. However, the tentacles of influence that major players in the technology industry possess have seen it watered down to its current form.

Consumers can take some consolation in that they will have the right to know what data is collected about them, and why. Additionally, information about minors below the age of 16 cannot be sold by default. They, or their legal guardians, must opt in to a program for that to occur.

Another positive aspect is that consumers will have the right to access the data that has been compiled. They may even have the option to delete it, although the Act does not guarantee that in all cases.

Navigating the Shifting Landscape

Any business with a national presence must contend with a wide variety of state privacy laws. We can expect them all to become more stringent as public awareness grows.

The choice for organizations is stark. They must choose between a complex system that deals individually with each state, and a uniform one which adheres to the strictest standards and offers them the least amount of consumer data.

Perhaps early adoption is the best option, especially if you are vocal about it. Tell users that you are willfully affording them improved protection and convert an otherwise painful process into a brilliant marketing strategy.

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