Silver linings: Why COVID-19 will encourage a national privacy law

Consensus has formed around the need for a national privacy law; Congress should seize this opportunity.

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Future generations will judge our response to the COVID-19 pandemic not only by our real-time public health and economic actions, but also by our post-pandemic regulatory choices. One of these choices will be how Congress should address the data privacy question, which is rising to new prominence as we embrace the notion that tech and data are integral to a successful and modern pandemic response.

Once we are on the other side of this critical moment, we must come together as a society, draw from the lessons learned, and create a national privacy standard that balances continued innovation and individual privacy. This is not only possible. It is imperative.

Finding consensus

April 9, 2020 Senate Commerce Committee hearing entitled “Enlisting Big Data in the Fight Against Coronavirus” brought together witnesses from the App Association, Network Advertising Initiative, Future of Privacy Forum, Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Center for Democracy and Technology, among others, underscoring the broad consensus in favor of a national privacy law and why the pandemic illustrates the need for such a law. 

Particularly in the pandemic context, there are two major reasons for this consensus.  First, a national privacy law can and should build uniform and consistent standards that provide consumers with assurances that their data will not be misused and companies with the rules of the road for using data to combat public health crises. Second, companies need legal security in order to make the most of the data at hand to develop big data solutions to address the coronavirus.

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