There are currently no comprehensive federal laws that discuss user and data privacy in the United States.
Currently, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has jurisdiction to take action against companies that violate a very broad selection of rules including:
- Failure to implement reasonable data security measures
- Violate consumer data privacy rights by collecting, processing, or sharing consumer information
- Engage in misleading advertising practices
- The issue with these regulations is that while they seem reasonable, they are not strictly enforced or codified in any major federal legislation. Big Tech companies do these things today.
There are several ethical issues that come to light in regard to personal privacy and data collection. One example of an ethical issue regarding data collection is Amazon Alexa. This device is known to record your private conversations in your home and store them for future access. Most users of the device likely do not know they are being recorded outside of when you activate the Alexa. This can be considered ethically wrong as it poses a huge threat to privacy.
As an organization, there are several things companies should be required to consider before collecting data:
- Are users aware of the data being collected, how it is being used, and are there options to opt-out without any fear of retaliation? (Ex. Social Media platforms get away with data collection because they require you to accept the terms and conditions to use the platform. This is ethically wrong and you should still be allowed access to a service if you do not want your data collected)
- Does this data collection cause physical, mental, or emotional harm? (Ex. Facebook knew that teenage girls were suffering high rates of depression due to their algorithm which caters to user pages based off of data collected from the user)
- Is the data kept anonymous, and is it shared?
There are many rapid changes politically when discussing users’ privacy and data in the United States.
An executive order under the Biden administration was passed in May 2021, to provide guidelines for government agencies to follow to help better protect sensitive data from foreign adversaries. With main goals at the end of having trust in digital infrastructure that is both trustworthy and transparent and consequences if that trust is broken. There are currently no federal data privacy laws, however, states have begun passing data privacy laws.
With much business conducted outside the US, privacy laws have begun to arise, however, Canada has set precedent, with a proposed privacy law that would focus on giving consumers control of their data and promote transparency. Countries around the world are working on implementing more privacy laws. Will there be laws set in place to protect companies conducting business in foreign countries regarding data protection? An example of this could be TikTok a foreign company recently giving themselves permission to collect biometric data from US users, bringing up the need for laws to be put in place to protect citizens’ information.
Depending on the social logic that brings them to life, digital technologies can take many forms and produce many effects on people’s lives. The economic system of surveillance capitalism is centered around the personal data of people’s behaviors, allowing corporations to show and advertise what they want people to see. This process involves gathering data from the same groups of people that are ultimately going to be targeted. For example, Google gathers personal information from us to target us with advertisements, and Facebook likely sells our personally identifiable information to organizations that want our votes. This practice of surveillance capitalism, also known as the legality of epistemic inequality, it not only gives companies profit but allows companies to feed ideas that intrude in people’s lives.
Rather than focusing on how surveillance is “done to” people, society must instead focus on the “imaginations” and “practices” of everyday surveillance, in which watching becomes a way of life. In addition to determining the ‘impact’ of surveillance, especially if it has a negative impact on more vulnerable populations, it is essential to understand how people interact with, respond to, and initiate surveillance in everyday life. In order to understand more clearly the relationship between contemporary surveillance and the everyday life of those who might be called its subjects, the concept of surveillance culture needs to be developed.