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Consumer data privacy may finally be getting much needed respect

Europe is already ahead of the game, and both California and Vermont are championing the move stateside

Photo (c) Vertigo3d - Getty Images
As ConsumerAffairs looks back on 2018, the landscape was replete with a myriad of product introductions and resets.

We wrote about self-driving cars, the continued rise of online shopping, airlines dealing with the issue of transporting pets, and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) taking action against e-cigarette manufacturers and trying to figure out how to legalize the sale of CBD oil.

But the story that wouldn’t go away was the one about protecting a consumer’s private data.

While Facebook and Google would rather the consumer consider the privacy situation much ado about nothing, the hand-wringing that it caused millions of users isn’t something that can be easily forgotten.

To the consumer’s defense, countries like Belgium and the United Kingdom took preventative measures to curb future privacy hacks. In the United States, however, the government took steps like calling Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg on the carpet to explain the social media giant’s gargantuan oops before Congress instead of tackling the issue head-on.

Looking forward

Going into 2019, consumer privacy protection might finally be getting the action it deserves.

For one, Vermont Attorney General (AG) TJ Donovan recently issued a report to lawmakers saying Vermont should conduct a statewide audit to discover the the trail of what happens to people’s data once it’s handed over to his state’s agencies.

“Vermont is not alone in considering regulation in this area. While the federal government has been slow to respond to data privacy concerns, various states have generated legislation responsive to such concerns,” wrote Donovan.

“Today’s technology enables data collection by businesses, organizations, and governments that creates concerns for consumer privacy. Though data collection has many benefits to our economy, security, and general welfare, we believe that a balance must be struck between these benefits and the expected right of individual privacy.”

To get the consumer a feeling of security, Donovan proposes steps like performing a privacy audit, adding a Chief Privacy Officer, and taking cues from California’s benchmark privacy law.

Also on Donovan’s wish list is mirroring Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) -- a law that has tackled privacy security head-on, resulting in stronger protections than any found in the U.S.

Taking that GDPR route certainly has the vote of the National Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM). The association’s CEO Barbara Rembiesa has sent up a flair, predicting that the U.S. may adopt European style data privacy rules following various U.S. tech companies’ fall from grace.

"The year 2018 has been a difficult one for Facebook," Rembiesa said in the announcement. "Between testifying before both domestic and international courts as well as the bad publicity surrounding the Cambridge Analytica scandal, one would think that Facebook would be careful about how it handles and distributes personal information."

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