Data Privacy: The New Bipartisan Value

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It seems like not a day goes by in which we don’t see another news story centered around the lack of fairness in big tech, poor management of passwords or data privacy breaches by any number of corporations. As these stories hit the news cycle, it seems the thing we can all agree on is that data privacy matters. The attacks and breaches are getting more sophisticated and complex, requiring more companies to spend more resources than ever to adequately protect the private and valuable data that they collect.

At a time when the public’s opinions on many issues have become polarizing, it seems to me that greater regulation of technology is one issue we can all agree on. However, we have not yet seen a serious effort to pass data privacy legislation at the federal level. Instead, there has been a slow, disjointed, state-by-state approach underway, following the significant moves by the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Even still, privacy is an issue most everyone has a position on, and most Americans want to see more action to protect it. Further, new generations of voters — millennials and Gen Zers — are coming into their own. These generations are the first to grow up with the internet. Their natural understanding of technology, and also a lifetime of being surveilled and tracked, is starting to generate a new paradigm.

These factors are creating a new frontier that I believe will make data privacy the next public value. In the same way that limiting the types of content on TV and radio became a common value years ago, the data collected on you and your family and what’s done with that data will be elevated as a concern, especially among voters of these generations.

This presents an opportunity for bipartisanship, where democrats and republicans can come together to pass a unified approach to data privacy protections for all Americans. We’re already beginning to see this with the reintroduction of privacy legislation at the U.S. Senate level, but it’s unclear the progress the federal government will be able to make on its own.

As technologists, it’s our time to shine. If the government won’t get it done, it’s our opportunity to start taking the type of action to protect data privacy. For many companies, this is not a nice to have; it’s a need to have. Consumers are more conscious than ever, and companies could lose customers quickly if they fail to take privacy seriously.

Prioritization of data privacy must start with the leadership team so the appropriate amount of resources can be allocated to put measures in place. Also, having clear processes and procedures for the company will ensure the rest of the organization understands what they need to do in their respective roles to protect customer privacy, as well as what needs to happen if there is an incident.

With the speed and adoption of new technology tools and applications, the time is now. As a tech-centric demographic begins to rise, and the power and influence of data technology begin to determine everything from your credit score to where you go to college, the conversation about this new value of data privacy is rising too. It’s an issue on which both political parties can get behind — if they can get out of their own way first and work in a bipartisan manner.

 

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