We have watched lawmakers push bad internet bills long enough. These bills distract from what’s really going on and serve to protect the Big Tech giants like Meta, Amazon, and Google that systematically collect our data, and dangerous data brokers that share it with anyone for the right price. We need comprehensive privacy legislation at the federal level that prioritizes people — not corporations — and puts us back in control of our personal information. 

Tell your members of Congress: “I urge you to support a strong data privacy law that protects the rights of real people and to prevent institutions from using data in ways that deprive people of their basic human rights.”

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Rather than regulate Big Tech by passing a sweeping data privacy law at the federal level – our best chance at actually making the internet a better place – lawmakers have continued to propose bills that restrict internet access. They cite concerns about teens’ mental health, hate speech, the spread of disinformation, and more. These are all meaningful concerns, but the bills are fatally flawed and would only make these problems worse. 

Attempts at data privacy laws have been made, but none have made it over the finish line. The American Data Privacy & Protection Act (ADPPA), introduced in 2022, wasn’t perfect, but it would have been a positive step in offering comprehensive data protection. Antitrust bills have suffered the same fate. One big reason this legislation fails to advance is the incredibly deep pockets of Big Tech. When they see data privacy legislation coming, they find ways to stop it. 

While agencies like the FTC can address some data abuses against consumers, it’s not enough to actually stop the harmful practices. For example, in May, the FTC charged Amazon with “violating children’s privacy law by keeping kids’ Alexa voice recordings forever and undermining parents’ deletion requests.” Amazon paid $25 million to settle the suit. They also paid $5.8 million to settle an FTC lawsuit which alleged that Amazon-owned Ring “gave employees unrestricted access to videos from customers’ home security systems.” These fines highlight the egregious practices, but are drops in the bucket of the companies’ profits. We need more.

Data privacy legislation could hold Big Tech accountable and help stop many of the harms of internet usage today. Here are some of the biggest current concerns and how a privacy bill will help:

The internet is harmful to teens’ mental health and not enough is being done to prevent online bullying and harassment.

Lawmakers are introducing an ever-growing number of bills that claim they will protect teens from online bullying and harassment by censoring the information they can access, and by giving parents greater control over their kids’ online access. But when anti-rights zealots are in charge of deciding what teens can see, vital information like suicide prevention and LGBTQ+ support is kept from them. And when parents can monitor and control internet usage, children experiencing abuse or harm in their living situations can be cut off from accessing resources or reaching out for help. Teens have a constitutional right to free speech on the internet, and if lawmakers really care about them – and all internet users – they will pass a federal data privacy bill that protects them and their information.

The internet is overrun with hate speech, conspiracy theories, and outright lies and is being used as a tool by hate groups to recruit and indoctrinate young people.

A data privacy bill would restrict platforms from collecting data on users and then using it to recommend content. This won’t necessarily stop people from posting hateful things, but it will stop platforms from artificially amplifying those things and targeting them directly to the people most susceptible because they have a profit incentive to do so. Remove the profit incentive, make the business practice illegal, and the spread of hate content will be reduced without engaging in censorship.

Our info is being sold to foreign governments like China and they could use it to harm our country. The U.S. government is also stealing our data and using it to track our locations, see who we associate with, and follow our every move.

It’s true: Lots of apps, from TikTok and Instagram to the seemingly harmless fitness app you use on your morning run, exploit our digital selves and then buy and sell our data to the highest bidder. The sad state of data privacy in the U.S. means the Chinese government could access this information from numerous tech companies, or simply purchase it from a data broker on the open market. Banning one app, like TikTok, won’t prevent that. Only strong federal data privacy legislation can really address this without infringing upon the free expression of millions of social media users. Congress should ban companies from spying on us rather than banning us from accessing tools to express ourselves.

Apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook collect our data and use it to keep us addicted to the scroll.

We know that apps use algorithms to pick and choose what content to show us (and not show us) in order to keep us scrolling and clicking, to sell more ads. These dangerous algorithms use our own personal data to manipulate us. They’re hurting all of us, including our kids. A federal data privacy bill would stop companies from collecting, purchasing or otherwise acquiring user information beyond what is needed to provide the service requested by the user, and from using this information for another purpose or to transfer it to another company without the user’s explicit, opt-in consent. We need to cut off the fuel supply for this dangerous machine. Using a service shouldn’t be conditioned on turning over personal information that is not necessary.

A growing number of personal devices, including cars, home products, and doorbells, harvest our data and use, share, or sell it though opaque means and without our knowledge.

The data collected by these products not only violate user privacy and normalize surveillance, they have a major impact on people’s lives. Data collection gives even more power to profit-driven corporations while simultaneously eroding people’s control over their own data and day-to-day activities. A comprehensive data privacy bill would create rules for how companies must protect people’s data, including limiting the sharing of people’s information with third parties without their explicit knowledge or consent.