Powerful privacy protection steps governments are taking
As technology advances, the need for better online privacy protection is growing even more crucial. After all, you use the internet for more than just work — you also use it to learn, pursue creative projects, connect with friends, play games, conduct research, and express yourself.
And, as you move through the online world, you leave pieces of personal information behind, including basic facts like your name and email address, as well as more sensitive details about your home, job, financial situation, hobbies, and interests. Personal information is a valuable currency, one that everyone — including internet service providers (ISPs), companies, websites, and advertisers — wants a part of.
Though some companies vow to use your information responsibly, it’s hard to trust that every company will use your personal details in a way you’re comfortable with. In fact, most websites either sell your personal information to third-party marketing companies or monitor your online activity to send you targeted ads. That’s why 84% of consumers said they want more control over their personal information and how it’s stored, according to a 2018 Acxiom survey.
Fortunately, government organizations are taking strides to protect privacy in the digital space.
What governments are doing for internet privacy protection
Government organizations across the globe are working to enact and update legislation designed to protect user privacy online.
Though there is no overarching federal law that protects individuals’ internet privacy in the United States, there are a handful of federal and state laws that address different aspects of privacy protection. However, nearly 72% of consumers said they want a privacy law at the federal level that would protect consumers in all 50 states equally, according to a 2018 survey from Arm Treasure Data.
Nation states like the United Kingdom and the European Union are also passing comprehensive privacy protection laws — and other countries are taking note. In fact, a 2018 survey from Akamai Research found that 66% of consumers would like laws in the United States similar to the ones the European Union instated.
In general, governments across the globe are trying to improve upon three key areas of privacy:
Privacy from tracking
The chief aim for most government organizations is to help protect consumers’ personal information. Some laws accomplish this by imposing restrictions on how companies use consumer information, while others aim to give consumers more authority over what happens to their information.
Governments are also writing laws that give individuals more freedom from data tracking, particularly tracking from ISPs. More recently, government organizations have approved numerous laws around privacy policies. For example, some laws punish companies that make false or misleading claims in their privacy policies, while others outline how companies should write privacy policies, namely by making them clearer and more user-friendly.
Here are some notable laws U.S. federal and state governments have enacted over the years:
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was written to protect individuals’ private information when they’re communicating electronically, either through email, phone calls, texts, or social media messaging.
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act requires financial institutions to tell customers about their information-sharing practices and to give customers the option to say no to sharing their information with third parties.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requires healthcare providers to disclose what they do with their customers’ personal information.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act prevents websites from collecting or sharing the personal information of minors under 13 without parental consent.
The California Consumer Privacy Act gives California consumers the right to hold businesses responsible for protecting their personal information and tell businesses not to share or sell their information.
Here are two of the most important privacy protection laws that originated outside the United States:
The U.K. Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations has a stipulation called “Cookie Law,” which prevents websites from tracking visitors without their consent.
The E.U. General Data Protection Regulation lets users request access to the personal information a company collects on them, revoke a company’s access to that information, and choose whether or not their private information becomes public.
Individuals are also fighting for internet privacy protection
Government change can be slow. Not only does it take time to draft and approve legislation that thoroughly protects consumers, but it also takes time for laws to go into effect. Meanwhile, data breaches are increasing. According to the 2019 Thales Data Threat Report, 65% of U.S. respondents have experienced a data breach at some point; and this number increased by 10% from 2017 to 2018.
As a result, more individuals have started to take action to protect their internet privacy, too. That includes advocating for better privacy protection legislation, as well as taking steps on a smaller scale, such as: adjusting privacy settings on social media, limiting app permissions, using tracker blocker tools, and downloading privacy apps.
Take charge of your online privacy
You don’t have to wait for privacy protection laws to take effect to enjoy a freer online experience. FigLeaf is an all-in-one tool that puts the power in your hands. Unlike other privacy apps, we let you decide how private you want to be wherever you go on the internet. Sometimes you may want to be anonymous, and other times you may want to be seen and heard. We understand that privacy is a personal choice, so you can change your mind — and your settings — as often as you want.