The data landscape in the United States resembles an expansive, yet-to-be-explored terrain, potentially leaving companies free to navigate the data they collect without standardised privacy laws. In the absence of federal oversight, many companies have become all too accustomed to collecting personal information without express consent.
That said, elevating data privacy standards is imperative for fostering consumer trust, ensuring data security, and aligning with evolving expectations in today’s digital age. This shift towards a more robust approach is not just a regulatory requirement; it’s a strategic imperative to thrive in an era where data integrity and user confidence are paramount.
The is no single comprehensive federal law that governs data privacy in the US, meaning no standardised protocol for when or if a company must disclose a data breach, and that can leave consumers in the dark about potential compromises to their personal information. The American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) is (at the time of writing) still just a bill, aiming to regulate how organisations keep and use consumer data. In the meantime, individual states are left to navigate the uncharted waters of data privacy regulation.
Consumer data often flows unseen, hidden from public view, and it means that the lack of transparency makes it difficult for consumers to comprehend the intricate paths their information travels. It ultimately undermines their ability to make informed decisions about their privacy. Without clear visibility into the data ecosystem, consumers are vulnerable to potential misuse, yet we all know that transparency is a crucial element in building trust and ensuring responsible data practices.
While Europe boasts the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the United States relies on various laws with acronyms like HIPAA, FCRA, FERPA, GLBA, ECPA, COPPA, and VPPA. These laws have been said to address specific data types in outdated contexts, lacking a unified approach to comprehensive data privacy.
HIPAA: Limited Health Coverage
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) covers communication between individuals and specific entities, excluding information gathered from wellness apps and fitness tracker data.
FCRA: Credit Report Constraints
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) restricts access to credit reports and governs credit bureau activities.
FERPA: Safeguarding Education Records
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) outlines who can request student education records, balancing access and privacy. One potential pitfall is that FERPA, while protecting the privacy of student records, faces challenges in keeping pace with rapidly evolving educational technologies, especially with digital platforms becoming more integral to education.
GLBA: Financial Transparency
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) requires financial institutions to disclose data-sharing practices, attempting to provide guardrails on personal data security.
ECPA: Outdated Surveillance Rules
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) sets rules for wiretaps but falls short in protecting against modern surveillance tactics. Enacted in 1986, the federal statute predates the internet era, leaving gaps in addressing contemporary issues like law enforcement access to older data stored on servers, cloud storage documents and search queries.
COPPA: Protecting Young Users
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) imposes limits on data collection for children under 13.
VPPA: Video Rental Secrets
The Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), although seemingly outdated, prevents the disclosure of VHS rental records.
The Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) empowers the FTC to pursue violations of privacy policies, showcasing the evolving role of regulatory bodies.
For consumers and organisations, the fragmented nature of data privacy regulations in the US raises concerns, however, In the absence of a comprehensive federal law, individual states are taking the lead. California (CCPA and CPRA), Virginia (VCDPA), and Colorado (ColoPA) have enacted comprehensive consumer privacy laws, providing rights and protections applicable to residents.
Increasingly, companies are realising that prioritising data privacy is not just about compliance; it’s a strategic move to fortify consumer trust and uphold ethical standards in an age where digital interactions shape daily life.
Amidst this evolving landscape, organisations can find solace and guidance in platforms like OneTrust. As OneTrust Implementation Experts, we can help you harness the power of this leading data privacy platform to stay up to speed with legislative changes, build and demonstrate trust, manage risk effectively, and ensure compliance. Let us help your organisation navigate the intricate terrain of data privacy, ensuring a secure and trustworthy digital future.