Today, I’ll briefly talk about an article by the Brookings Institute, a nonprofit research group focusing on public policy in a wide variety of topics ranging from economics, foreign policy, and so on. For more information, I’ve linked their page on Media Bias Fact Check and the About Us from their own website.
With that out of the way, I’d like to talk about a specific article I found on the Brookings Institute website, titled “Why protecting privacy is a losing game today—and how to change the game,” by Cameron F. Kerry. Written in 2018, it is a few years out of date, but I think the information and analysis is still very relevant to the state of privacy now.
The article starts by mentioning recent events that have brought privacy concerns to the forefront: Snowden in 2013, the 2017 Equifax breach, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal after the 2016 US Presidential Election. As stated in the article, each of these events revealed that massive quantities of information are moving around behind the scenes, and we as individuals are unable to exert any control over them. Moreover, in the event of a security breach such as with Equifax, millions of innocent people are affected by the consequences of their information being stored without their knowledge.
The second section of the article discusses the areas in which current law is lagging behind with respect to the rapid developments in technology. In general, the article suggests that laws currently are very “niche” in the way that they handle privacy regulation. That is, lawmakers have been entirely “reactionary” rather than “preventative” in the way they draft privacy laws. Kerry cites specific examples of the laws in effect today: data usage from ed-tech products, employers having access to social media accounts, protection from drones. Laws generally cover information that concerns people the most, but only in cases where the dangers have already been established. With technology developing at a rapid rate, and with a greater amount of interconnectivity resulting from these changes, the law has to find a way to keep up and protect the unfortunate victims of the potential unforeseen privacy violations.
The final section of the article lists the organization’s recommendations for legislation that can keep up with the rapid changes in technological development. Kerry states that there are a few potential models that have received attention on the subject: the Obama administration’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. According to Kerry, the above Bill of Rights would need to be updated to properly suit the current privacy atmosphere. He goes on to say that while the EU’s model is good, there are aspects that make it difficult to apply to the US without some degree of adaptation.
Although the article is lengthy, I found it to be fairly accessible to the general audience, despite being written by a think tank focused on public policy. The division of the content was logical and further helped in contextualizing all the information presented in the article. It was very interesting to see privacy concerns brought up from a legal/governmental point of view, especially as the majority of the resources I’ve seen have been dedicated to what the individual can do to help protect themselves from prying eyes.
It was also interesting to see a lawyer’s recommendations on privacy law for the US. It was a surprise to find out how lacking our laws currently are, and the need for the law to keep up with rapidly changing technology. Aside from that, the fact that, as the article stated, some aspects of the EU’s GDPR would not mesh well with aspects of our own laws, such as the First Amendment, was something that I wouldn’t have considered. I think that this demonstrates how complicated the situation is in the US, and the need for lawmakers to work on developing sensible legislation.