Safe and Secure Online Experiences for Our Community

The internet is vital to the daily lives of all Americans, and the Asian American community is no exception. As Congress prepares to recess and begins to consider their legislative priorities for the fall, consumers representing diverse communities must continue to urge Congress to act to protect Americans’ online and offline activities by legislating a consistent set of privacy rules across the wide range of internet-enabled industries.

Studies have shown that members of the AAPI are among those groups that lead in their rate of technology adoption, online consumer spending, and internet usage. Where there is the immense opportunities for economic empowerment and education, there is also immense vulnerability without adequate data privacy rules and practices in place.

Unfortunately, much of our online activity exists in a regulatory vacuum; today, our data is unnecessarily at risk because of potential bad practices on the other end of our digital interactions; when we log in to our social media accounts, when we click on sponsored ads, when we search the internet, and when we visit any of the millions of apps, games, and websites we access on any average day. That the average AAPI individual spends 20% more than the average non-Hispanic white on internet purchases, for example, means they are generating more data without necessarily knowing how it will be used or kept safe.

Studies that demonstrate the technological acumen of the AAPI community are helpful, but the immense diversity of the AAPI community – cultural, social, and economic – can often be obscured by them. Members of our communities who have fled corruption or who may not have full English proficiency deserve easy access to tools and information that helps them stay safe online and avoid exploitation.

This year, bipartisan calls for action to improve digital privacy were accompanied by numerous hearings in the U.S. House and Senate that demonstrated the importance of privacy legislation for preventing market consolidation in digital products and services, improving consumer choice, and curbing data misuse and abuse in areas such as policing, credit, employment, and housing. Yet, efforts to produce a bipartisan bill in the Commerce Committees of both the Senate and the House have stalled.

All this online activity – without proper safeguards – can result in unintended consequences that harm consumers and innovation by limiting access to meaningful civic participation and educational opportunities that depend on a safe and secure internet connection.

Like all communities in the U.S., many AAPI individuals need help navigating the opportunities and pitfalls of the digital economy. When you consider the explosion of devices all around us – including largely untested facial recognition technology – and that just about any company with an online presence is looking for new ways to capture and monetize consumers’ personal data, it becomes clear that Americans cannot afford to wait for federal privacy legislation any longer. The risk of inaction is simply too great.

Consistent privacy rules would protect all communities – especially the most vulnerable – today and provide the necessary assurances that allow them to succeed tomorrow.

In the absence of Congressional action, several states have stepped in. Proposed state laws, while perfectly well-intentioned, are not a solution; states should not be forced to address internet privacy on their own and in such a piecemeal fashion. Doing so will only lead to confusion as privacy protections would vary greatly from state to state. American personal and commercial activity online does not stop at state boundaries, so the laws governing internet privacy shouldn’t either. This is a national problem that deserves a national solution.

We need a consistent set of rules in place that equally protects all communities that use digital products and services. Federal privacy legislation can give internet users clear, easily understandable information about the specific data companies are collecting, how that data will be used, and the types of third parties that may be able to get their hands on that data. A single set of privacy rules would protect consumers’ rights to privacy while providing consistency across the board.

Congress must commit to passing a uniform set of privacy rules when they reconvene this fall. Our communities don’t need more expert hearings and testimony to understand the scope of the digital privacy challenge; we need action to promote transparency and enables a safe, secure online experience for all.