Internet Privacy Laws in the United States (USA)

By Jayden Andrews. May 8, 2020

In the 21st century, individuals and companies are looking for a faster way of doing things, communicating, and offering services remotely. The internet is one of the quickest ways to communicate with individuals all over the world. As of 2018, there were over 312 Million internet users in the USA.

When using the internet, we tend to leave a lot of digital footprints that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can use without our knowledge. Whenever you post anything on social media platforms, give your email when signing up for a newsletter, or use debit card information when buying an item online, you risk putting your personal data in the wrong hands.

Internet privacy laws in the USA have been here for some time to protect you whenever you use the internet. The House of Representatives enacted the laws to protect all internet users in the USA against cyber threats and cybercrime. The purpose of these laws is to ensure that ISPs are always accountable for personal information leaks. Individuals can sue any ISP if they share their personal information with other companies.

In this article, we look at some of these laws that every internet user in the USA should be aware of. Also, we give you some tips to keep your information safe when you go online

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California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a law enacted in 2018. The law grants consumers the right to request any company to delete their personal information from the database. It also limits the company from sharing consumers’ personal information that they collect.
If you have a business in the state of California, then you should beware of this law. Any business that collects data from the residents of California is restricted by this law against sharing consumers’ personal information.

CCPA only applies if the company meets the following threshold:

  • The company or business makes USD 25.0 Million in annual gross revenue
  • The business can share, buy, sell, or receive personal information from over 50,000 devices, households, and consumers
  • The company makes up to 50.0% of its gross revenue from the sale of consumer personal information

The CCPA law has a section that requires every business in California to disclose the source of the information they collect and share. The law grants every consumer in California the right to request the company having their personal information to delete them. The company in question must act accordingly on receipt of the request form the consumer.

Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 (FTC)

The FTC act can be counted as one of the oldest internet laws in the USA. The US implemented the FTC in 1914, and, among other things, it now works to protect internet users against all illegal or deceptive commercial practices. It ensures that all companies that use their clients’ confidential information without their consent are held accountable for breach of individual privacy.

The law prohibits companies from wrongful use of personal information. All companies in the USA can be held accountable if they do not protect individual information.

Maine Act of 2019

Janet Mills, The Governor of Maine, signed a bill on July 7, 2019, that restricts companies from sharing consumer personal information with third parties without written consent from the customer. This law will be effective in July 2020, and we expect it to help protect individuals who have fallen prey to companies that sell personal information to most of the marketing companies in the US.

The positive side of this law is the fact that it limits the ISPs from charging their customer more if they don’t permit access to or sharing of their personal information. All ISPs are required by this law to ensure their customers’ data remains intact and safe from third-party companies.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998

DMCA is one of the most fundamental laws in the USA. The law protects individuals from copyright infringement by those using the internet. Internet users can easily download audios, pictures, videos, or music without requesting permission from the file owners.

With this law in effect, it is a crime to download, copy, or even share information with copyright disclosure. You can only access and use information from the internet if the copyright holder grants you the permission to do so.

Ideally, the law mandates every ISP to ensure that their customers do not infringe copyright. Some companies have come up with the Copyright Alert feature that instantly warns internet users when they are about to download copyrighted software, music, or videos.

Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 2012

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 2012 was the first law written in the USA for the use of the internet. COPPA is a law that limits how websites collect information from children below the age of 13. The law requires that all websites meet the FTC regulations when collecting information from children.

The FTC is responsible for ensuring that a website is okay for children by checking the nature of graphics, content, and the language on the site. The law also ensures that website operators do not collect any additional personal information when they ask individuals who access their site to register by giving their name and email address.

The future for internet users in the US

What does the future look like for internet users in the US as Trump signs internet privacy repeal? You have a reason to worry as an internet user in the US, especially with the recent changes in laws governing internet access.

During President Obama’s reign, the Federal Communication Commission came up with laws restricting companies from accessing, using, and sharing their customers’ personal information without their consent. Well, it seems that most ISPs will now have the freedom to use personal information from customers without their permission.

The law that President Trump signed repeals all the protection of ISPs from requesting your permission before they can share your personal information with third party companies for marketing purposes.

There is a lot you need to do to ensure the information that these ISPs get from you may not unmask you or fall in the wrong hands. So, what should you do to ensure you protect your privacy whenever you are online, or when you access the internet?

How to protect your privacy when online

The new internet privacy Trump regulations and laws mean a lot of things to a regular internet user. They mean that you must be careful whenever you are giving information to your ISP or websites. You must be extra aware of the stuff you post on your social media walls.

Read also: Complete Guide on Internet Privacy

To always ensure you protect your privacy and avoid data breaches, you can employ the tips we have listed below.

Use a VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a tool that helps you to remain anonymous when you access the internet. When you access the internet on a public Wi-Fi, it is important to ensure you have a reliable VPN installed on your PC.

A VPN will protect your browsing activity from third parties and hide your IP address. It is difficult for hackers or other individuals to find out your location or trace your activities when you go online. All data that you share on a network will be safe because a VPN encrypts your communication.

Disable Cookies

Most websites and companies use cookies to collect information from your device. When you accept cookies from most websites, the admin easily collects your browsing history and uses the data to customize the adverts they send to you. You can stop all websites from accessing your browsing history once you disable cookies on your device.

Beware of privacy policies

Most websites and ISP companies have their privacy policies. When registering with an ISP, you must read their privacy policy, terms and conditions to ensure you are safe. The privacy statements on the websites must be clear. If the website intends to collect your personal information, they will always specify this in their privacy policy.

Opt-out

In case you don’t want to share your personal information with the company or website, you are always free to opt-out of their service. In case you visit a website that instructs you to “Accept Cookies,” you can either decide to click the button or log out of the site. You stop the company and site from going through your browsing history and collecting your personal information if you sign out.

Update your passwords

Most internet users probably have one password for all their online accounts. This is catastrophic. It is always essential that you update your passwords regularly and diversify. Ensure the password you set for all your accounts is strong enough and not easy to hack.

Final thought

The United States is one of the top countries in the world in the number of internet users. According to the Freedom House Index, the US ranks fourth in terms of internet freedom. The enactment of internet privacy laws in the country is an indication that most companies rely on consumer data for their growth. There are many internet privacy laws in the USA, some of which are beyond the scope of this article.
When accessing the internet, you always want to ensure your personal information if safe. You must understand what the law says about internet user privacy. The recent developments in internet privacy in the USA should be an awakening call for all consumers.

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