The Messy Progress on Data Privacy

The latest attempt to create the first broad national data privacy law in the United States is causing the typical nonsense in Washington. But from the mess in Congress and elsewhere in the U.S., we’re finally seeing progress in defending Americans from the unrestrained information-harvesting economy.

What’s emerging is a growing consensus and a body of (imperfect) laws that give people real control and companies more responsibility to tame the nearly limitless harvesting of our data. Given all the bickering, tacky lobbying tactics and gridlock, it might not look like winning from up close. But it is.

Let me zoom out to the big picture in the U.S. Tech companies like Facebook and Google, mostly unknown data middlemen and even the local supermarket harvest any morsel of data on us that might help their businesses.

We benefit from this system in some ways, including when businesses find customers more efficiently through targeted ads. But the existence of so much information on virtually everyone, with few restrictions on its use, creates conditions for abuse. It also contributes to public mistrust of technology and tech companies. Even some companies that have benefited from unrestricted data collection now say the system needs reform.