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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Charting a Course for Privacy: The Urgency for a Defined Path by the US Government

In the intricate landscape of privacy, a fundamental human right and value, clarity is key. The US government, lacking a comprehensive federal privacy law, must take the lead in providing a clear and consistent definition of privacy. This absence leaves a void, with multiple authorities and agencies navigating privacy issues independently, creating confusion and uncertainty.

The US’s current privacy landscape resembles a patchwork quilt, featuring state and sectoral privacy laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This decentralized approach results in confusion and inconsistency, affecting the rights and responsibilities of both data subjects and controllers. The growing public demand for privacy protection, evidenced by increased complaints, lawsuits, and breaches, highlights the inadequacy of the current state of privacy in the US.

An official definition of privacy by the US government is a crucial step toward harmonizing existing and future privacy laws. This would provide a consistent framework, enhancing the rights and expectations of data subjects and ensuring accountability for data controllers. Clarity on personal data, data processing purposes, and the rights and obligations of individuals and organizations would simplify understanding and address privacy issues. Additionally, it would strengthen the US’s position in global privacy discussions, facilitating collaboration with other countries and regions.

While adopting an official definition of privacy is complex, it presents opportunities for alignment and coordination among different levels and branches of government. Challenges arise from diverse perspectives among stakeholders, each with unique interests and incentives. Opportunities lie in the coordination of government levels and branches, ensuring they complement rather than conflict with each other.

Proposed Definition for Data Privacy:

Data Privacy is the fundamental right and practice that empowers individuals to control and protect their personal and sensitive data from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. It encompasses the right to know what data is collected, how it is processed, and the ability to consent or withhold consent for such processes. Data Privacy ensures transparency, fairness, and accountability in the handling of personal information by data controllers and promotes the responsible and ethical use of data in a manner that respects the rights, interests, and values of individuals.

This proposed definition serves as a foundational step toward a more coherent and comprehensive approach to data privacy. It addresses the identified challenges by providing a clear, consistent, and ethically grounded framework that empowers individuals, fosters transparency, and aligns the US with global privacy standards.

The US government’s leadership in defining privacy is crucial and urgent. An official definition would update and harmonize privacy laws, fortify the rights of data subjects, and ensure accountability for data controllers. While challenges exist, embracing consultation, collaboration, and compromise can pave the way for a clear and comprehensive approach to privacy. It’s time for action and change to protect and promote privacy for the American people.

author avatar
Shane McNeil
Shane McNeil has a diverse career in the US Intelligence Community, serving in various roles in the military, as a contractor, and as a government civilian. His background includes several combat deployments and service in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), where he applied his skills in assignments such as Counterintelligence Agent, Analyst, and a senior instructor for the Joint Counterintelligence Training Activity. He is a Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholar and has a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology from the University of North Dakota. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree in National Security Policy at Liberty University, studying the transformative impacts of ubiquitous technology on national defense. All articles written by Mr. McNeil are done in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the Department of Defense, the Defense Intelligence Agency, or the United States government.
Shane McNeil
Shane McNeil
Shane McNeil has a diverse career in the US Intelligence Community, serving in various roles in the military, as a contractor, and as a government civilian. His background includes several combat deployments and service in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), where he applied his skills in assignments such as Counterintelligence Agent, Analyst, and a senior instructor for the Joint Counterintelligence Training Activity. He is a Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholar and has a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology from the University of North Dakota. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree in National Security Policy at Liberty University, studying the transformative impacts of ubiquitous technology on national defense. All articles written by Mr. McNeil are done in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the Department of Defense, the Defense Intelligence Agency, or the United States government.

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