Principles of the Law, Data Privacy is now available in print. This is ALI’s first venture into the field of information privacy law. This project identifies core principles useful for bringing greater coherence to this area. Like all Principles projects, it seeks to provide best practices for institutions other than the courts—in this case entities that collect personal information and the legislatures and administrative agencies, state and federal, that regulate them.
Reporters Paul M. Schwartz of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and Daniel J. Solove of George Washington University Law School completed this project at a time when guidance on data privacy is more necessary than ever. High-profile scandals—such as the hacking of sensitive data from the credit-reporting agency Equifax and Cambridge Analytica’s abuse of misappropriated personal data during the 2016 presidential election—underscore the dangers for individuals, who are often unaware that their personal information is being collected in the first place, as well as pitfalls facing businesses and organizations reliant on such data. In response to such events, states have passed privacy legislation and Congress has been considering several bills that would provide greater protection for personal data privacy, including proposals to overhaul the Federal Trade Commission or to create a new Data Protection Agency.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has given these important questions even greater urgency. Governments and public health officials around the world have turned to digital data to track and seek to contain the spread of the virus. Many countries are employing digital contact tracing, which uses personal data collected from mobile devices or credit cards to identify anyone who was in contact with an infected individual. Even traditional tools, like temperature checks at workplaces and health surveys for travelers, involve the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information. But while personal data offers promising avenues for limiting the spread of the virus and resuming economic activity, measures like digital contact tracing have elicited strong opposition from privacy advocates, who worry that these developments endanger civil liberties and give too much power to governments and technology companies.
These Principles will be of use in addressing the difficult questions raised by the pervasive use of personal data, including vital questions of public health, as well as financial and personal safety of individuals.