The proliferation of smartphones and other connected devices has radically transformed the world around us. According to a recent Pew Research survey, 45% of U.S. adults under the age of 30 are “almost constantly” online – a phenomenon our community is all too familiar with; Asian Americans are not only the fastest-growing ethnic or racial group in the U.S., but we’re also the leading internet users. Asian Americans are uniquely poised to take advantage of the tremendous long-term social and economic benefits of internet access. Yet, without a national privacy law in place, our digital information remains that much more exposed to potential misuse and abuse.
The relative ease and frequency with which we can get online offers daily conveniences and near-immediate access to applications, services, and vast troves of information. A remarkable 97% of Asian American households now have smartphones and 89% have computers, according to a new Nielsen survey. Asian Americans are using this connectivity to make their presence felt online, making online purchases at a 34% higher rate than the U.S. average, for example. While Americans in general, and Asian Americans especially, are attached to the internet as never before, this has raised a serious problem, especially for younger Americans who tend to spend more time online.
Our trail of digital data, including websites we visit and apps we use, is being used by companies operating across the internet ecosystem to track and shape consumers’ online and offline behavior. Younger Americans are among the most connected both within and outside of our community, which means they face a unique risk with respect to how their data can be potentially misused.
Our outdated privacy rules are not up to the task of protecting us spyware, website trackers, emerging technologies like facial recognition, or from people and companies who see a way to profit from recording what consumers do online. A uniform Federal standard that applies to all internet companies and its corresponding privacy protections will make the internet a safer place, especially for younger Americans who will be tomorrow’s leaders.
This single standard should apply to all internet companies regardless of their location or business model. At its core, a national privacy law should also codify key principles that will empower and protect consumers: transparency, security and consumer control. If any operator on the internet wants to access our “digital footprint,” consumers deserve to be notified. We should be told in advance what information is going to be collected, how it will be used and whether it will be shared or sold. Lastly, we should have the ability to opt out if we choose and to know how our data is protected.
Americans deserve a Federal online privacy standard based on these commonsense provisions. As that recent Nielsen report observed, “Asian Americans are adept users of emerging technology.” This gives our community a major stake in protecting our online privacy. We must tell Congress that we deserve better privacy protections and urge them to pass a bipartisan, comprehensive solution. The next generation of Americans is counting on Congress—and us—to take swift action to lay the foundation for a more safe and secure internet experience.