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Americans overwhelmingly want Congress to pass data protection laws

80% believe the data companies collect can cause harm.


Jacob Seitz


Posted on Feb 7, 2023

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe Congress needs to act on data privacy, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, found that 79% of Americans believe Congress needs to act swiftly to regulate companies’ use of individuals’ digital information.

Over half of the respondents said it was very urgent. 

The study was funded by an “unsolicited, unrestricted grant from Facebook” according to the paper, and was conducted to find if Americans were truly given informed consent on the internet. 

“Genuine opt-out and opt-in consent requires that people have knowledge about commercial data-extraction practices as well as a belief they can do something about them. As we approach the 30th anniversary of the commercial internet, the latest Annenberg national survey finds that Americans have neither,” the study said.

The four professors at the Annenberg School for Communications at Penn surveyed over 2,000 Americans living in the continental United States and found that a majority of them were either willfully ignorant or uneducated when it comes to consumer data rights.

The study found that 82% of Americans were not aware that the Federal Health Insurance and Portability Act (HIPAA) does not prohibit health apps from collecting and selling data to marketers.

“High levels of frustration, concern, and fear compound Americans’ confusion: 80% say they have little control over how marketers can learn about them online; 80% agree that what companies know about them from their online behaviors can harm them,” the study said. “These and related discoveries from our survey paint a picture of an unschooled and admittedly incapable society that rejects the internet industry’s insistence that people will accept tradeoffs for benefits and despairs of its inability to predictably control its digital life in the face of powerful corporate forces.”

The survey results came on the same day that President Joe Biden said that he would call on Congress to strengthen Americans’ data privacy during his State of the Union address Tuesday.

Last month, Biden laid out a plan to take on big tech in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and also said his administration was “​​developing new privacy rules for commercial data.”

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*First Published: Feb 7, 2023, 2:52 pm CST