As the coronavirus continues to drive an uptick in online activity, privacy issues are coming to the forefront. Key to the growing concern is the necessity for businesses to collect personal data for tracking purposes. The renewed focus on keeping personal data secure is no surprise, and now the government is getting involved.
The recently proposed SAFE DATA Act could take us one step closer to a comprehensive federal data privacy law, which has been in the works for years. While the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) may have moved things along at the state level — or one state’s level — the SAFE DATA Act takes a more sweeping, federal approach that would cover all states and apply to nearly all industries.
According to Gary A. Kibel at Davis & Gilbert LLP, the SAFE DATA Act was “motivated by concerns around contact tracing, mobile apps, tracking people and how to best use the data.”
As businesses develop Safe Spaces in response to COVID, it’s crucial to consider new privacy laws that may be on the horizon, and to plan accordingly.
What Is the SAFE DATA Act?
SAFE DATA is an acronym for Setting an American Framework to Ensure Data Access, Transparency and Accountability. The bill is the latest attempt to create one federal privacy standard in order to give individuals more control and transparency over the use of their personal data.
The act combines privacy protections that were included in previous data privacy bills like the Filter Bubble Transparency Act, the DETOUR Act and the BROWSER Act. According to Kibel, the SAFE DATA act applies to “covered entities” that collect, process or transfer “covered data.” The covered entity is simply the business that will be covered by the provisions, but covered data requires some explanation.
“Covered data is the information that identifies — or is linked or reasonably linked to — a person or a device that is linked (or linkable) to a person,” Kibel explains, noting that it’s similar to personal information in other laws. Importantly, “covered data does not include aggregated data, de-identified data, employee data or publicly available information.”
According to Kibel, employee data follows the California model of carving out certain rights regarding employees. “For example,” he explains, “it ensures that the employee can’t ask their employer to delete all of their data. They need to run the company and pay people, and personal data is required.”
What Could the SAFE DATA ACT Mean for Businesses?
Kibel encourages businesses to pay attention to the current laws that are in place, as they are accountable to know which laws apply to them. These laws can vary from state to state, though the SAFE DATA Act could change all of that.
“If and when a national privacy law is implemented,” Kibel says, “the hope is that it will preempt all currently existing standards. Meaning everyone lines up to it, and no one can splinter off with their own.”
While the SAFE DATA Act has yet to be passed, businesses would be wise to keep privacy issues and potential new laws in mind when planning product development.
“As businesses build products and services, they need to realize that there may be a national privacy law that could affect them,” Kibel says. “If people want their data deleted in the future, it will have to be done. There will be no grandfather policy.”
When planning a Safe Space, it’s imperative that businesses choose tech that can be adapted to changing guidelines, and provides the ability to adhere to any data retention regulations. Further, ensure that there is a mechanism for acknowledging that data is being collected, what data is involved and how it is being stored—ideally with an easy method for selecting levels of privacy. By doing so, all bases are covered, and there will be a compliance and opt-in trail easily accessible.
InReality’s Learning Center is committed to sharing important guidance to help the industry navigate the complexities of the ever-evolving Safe Space landscape. The information shared is informed by experience working with many constituents and stakeholders. If you have a topic you would like addressed, please submit it to Laura Davis-Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
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