"Historically, privacy was almost implicit, because it was hard to find and gather information. But in the digital world, whether it's digital cameras or satellites or just what you click on, we need to have more explicit rules - not just for governments but for private companies." -Bill Gates, Philanthropist, Investor, and Co-Founder of Microsoft (November 2013)
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2019 revealed that over 80% of Americans felt they had little control over the data collected on them, either by private companies or by the Federal Government. A further 86% said the risks of personal data collection by private companies outweighed the benefits, a sentiment echoed by 66% vis-a-vis the government. The survey found a similar proportion of Americans were concerned about how their data was used by those who collected it, and it found that 64% of those surveyed had personally experienced a large data breach. Yet while the survey revealed widespread concern for privacy rights, it also showed that Americans believe there are times when it's acceptable for organizations to share personal information. More Americans than not for example support some kind of data collection to combat terrorism or improve student academic performance, while being largely opposed to others such as sharing smart home device recordings with law enforcement.
This multiplicity of sentiments is reflected in what experts have termed the patchwork of American privacy regulations. Rather than an overarching system ala the European Union’s General Digital Privacy Regulations (GDPR), the United States’s privacy laws, derived from interpretations of the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 14th amendments to the constitution, are sector or state specific. At the Federal level, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) protect medical records, student records, and records of children 13 and under respectively. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) applies 4th amendment protections to electronic communication, and the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA) has been interpreted as granting the agency broad powers to regulate data handling practices, though it can only intervene by way of litigation or administrative settlement and a 2021 Supreme Court ruling stripped it of its ability to seek financial restitution from offenders. At the state level, privacy regulations vary in stringency, though the provision that consumers are notified in the event of a data breach is near universal.
Pushes for a comprehensive American digital privacy standard are not new. The FTC has repeatedly made the case to Congress on the need for comprehensive baseline privacy laws, and a decade ago the Obama administration proposed a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights that ultimately stalled in committee. Generally left-of-center proponents of such legislation argue it would streamline regulations, safeguard consumer rights in a digital age, and help fight monopolization in the tech sector by targeting the feedback loop by which major tech giants use consumer data to consolidate their market shares. Opponents contend additional regulations would disproportionately harm small businesses and posit that decreased data collection, especially from the private sector, would harm the quality of services consumers receive since so many of them are optimized by way of consumer data. There is also a concern that an omnibus bill might focus too much on the private sector and ignore the role of government in privacy violations.
This symposium will provide a platform for policymakers, legal experts, representatives of the technology sector, privacy advocates, and academics to discuss these challenging questions. Delegates will consider the state of digital privacy legislation, identify policy gaps, generate ideas to overcome them, and come away more empowered to contribute to a road map for digital privacy in the 21st century.
Evaluate proposed legislation such as the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPA) and the Fourth Amendment is Not For Sale Act in light of existing federal privacy protections.
Discuss the relationship between consumer digital privacy and antitrust regulation which was highlighted in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s report Competition in Digital Markets and weigh the costs and benefits of restricting the information tech companies can access.
In light of the fact that the ADPA does not fully preempt state legislation, examine state-level digital privacy laws, identify best practices, and assess the feasibility of implementing the most effective legislation in other states.
Discuss strategies consumers can take online to protect their own privacy and evaluate proposals for disseminating that information to the general public in an impactful way.
Evaluate the long term benefits that enshrining a right to be forgotten could have on current and future youth.
Explore the medium and long-term ramifications of Covid-19 associated applications and contact tracing mechanisms on public perceptions of digital privacy.
Weigh the pros and cons of allowing private right of action in cases where an individual’s data has been compromised
Discuss the balance between security, privacy and democracy, both in law enforcement and national security contexts.
State and Federal Antitrust Regulators
Cybersecurity and Privacy Lawyers
Senior Justice Officials
Consumer Protection Officials
Heads of Social Media Content Moderation
Digital Risk Analysts
Chief Digital Officers
Chief Information Officers
Chief Technology Officers
Health Insurance Plan Administrators
Credit Compliance Officers
Heads of Business Intelligence
Heads of Customer Services
Consumer Watchdog Groups
Privacy Watchdog Groups
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