As we approach the one year anniversary of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Microsoft has outlined its vision for a US version of the regulation that would make it easier for consumers to protect their data.
The company's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, Julie Brill explained in a blog post (opens in new tab) that consumers' understanding of their right to privacy has been a driving force behind the global movement to modernize privacy laws.
Currently there are multiple state laws on data privacy including California's Consumer Privacy Act and Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act but no action has been taken on the federal level even after several senators have proposed their own bills.
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Meanwhile, tech giants including Google, Apple and Facebook have also called for a US data privacy law though each company has a different take on the specifics. Microsoft believes that the burden of protecting user data should shift from the consumer to the tech companies.
Data collection by default
As it stands now, the majority of data protection is an opt-out experience where data collection is enabled by default until a user changes their privacy settings. Google was criticized by lawmakers back in March over this is exact issue when they pointed out just how difficult it was to actually opt out of the company's data tracking programs.
In her blog post, Brill explained how the opt-out experience was detrimental to consumers, saying:
“This is important because the prevailing opt-in/opt-out privacy model in the United States forces consumers to make a decision for every website and online service they visit. This places an unreasonable—and unworkable—burden on individuals. Strong federal privacy should not only empower consumers to control their data, it also should place accountability obligations on the companies that collect and use sensitive personal information.”
Using data collected from its Privacy Dashboard, Microsoft discovered that over 18m people have used its tools to protect their privacy further. However, as there are 1.5bn Windows devices, this means that only one percent of Microsoft users have actually changed their privacy settings.
A US federal data protection law is most likely in the works but the question of when it will arrive and how it will protect consumer privacy online still need to be answered.
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