Last year, state attorneys general from around the country gathered in Vermont for the 2021 NAAG Eastern Region conference on The Surveillance Economy: How Attorneys General Protect Privacy, Safety, and Equality in the Information Age. During one panel, experts discussed innovative legislative and policy approaches to enhancing privacy in the digital age.
State attorneys general play an important role in protecting consumers’ digital privacy and data. Big tech companies continue to rapidly expand and play a significant role in our society by providing consumers with digital resources. Although the information age has provided many benefits, many complex issues arise as third-party entities sell and share consumers’ personal information and data breaches become more frequent.
Attorneys general enforce state and federal laws that can protect peoples’ privacy. The passage of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2016 ushered in a new age of privacy rights for individuals seeking to protect their personal data. There are 146 jurisdictions in the world that have comprehensive national level privacy regulations. Although there are no comprehensive federal laws governing data privacy in the United States, individual state legislatures and state attorneys general are working locally to enact policies that will protect consumers from bad actors in the digital arena. States that have successfully enacted privacy legislation include California, Vermont, Virginia, and Colorado.
California has enacted several privacy statutes including the California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in 2018 and the California Privacy Rights Act, passed as a ballot initiative in November 2020. The CCPA gave individuals the right to know what personal information a business collects, the right to delete personal information, the right to opt-out of that information collection, the right to access their personal data, and the right not to be discriminated against for exercising their privacy rights.
In 2021, Virginia passed the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act, which gives consumers the rights to access, correct, and delete personal data, and provides for data portability, and opt-out of data collection. Colorado was the third state to pass a comprehensive data security legislation with the Colorado Privacy Act, which has provisions similar to the California and Virginia privacy laws. Other states may follow suit and consider enacting legislation to improve and protect their residents’ privacy.
In 2018, Vermont enacted the nation’s first law to regulate data brokers. Data brokers are entities that collect, sell, or license to third parties the personal data of consumers with whom the entity does not have a direct relationship. The Vermont Data Broker regulation went into effect in 2019 and requires data brokers to register annually with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office and pay an annual registration fee.
The attorney general community continues to collaborate with privacy experts on how to protect consumer data and enact innovative policies to strengthen consumer privacy rights.
Watch the full panels from The Surveillance Economy conference to learn more about how the attorney general community can protect privacy safety, and equality in the information age.