Opinion: The US Federal Privacy and Data Protection Act protects all data.

When a business signals “whites only”, it doesn’t matter if it’s written in ink or pixels, words or code. The discrimination is the same. The same harm. And the legal consequences should be the same.

However, our laws and courts often consider discrimination on the internet. Since there is no comprehensive federal online privacy law, online actors may collect, use, buy and sell data about our identity and then discriminate against us. Bipartisan legislation going through Congress right now could change that.

Everyday life, including finding a job, buying a house, starting a business, and shopping now takes place online. Civil rights in online trading are just as important as equal opportunity in person.

Existing anti-discrimination laws often cannot help because they were written before the Internet was created. Some, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, do not apply to stores or have unresolved questions about how they might apply to online businesses. Others apply only to certain sectors, such as housing and employment, but may not cover new types of algorithmic services that match people to those opportunities, or new forms of commerce, such as influencers or games. Some federal laws do not cover discrimination based on gender or religion.

Under current federal law, online store charge higher prices to women or refuse to sell goods to women. Christians. Algorithms used for targeting advertising and decision-making often leads to unequal outcomes in Frame, employment, credit, healthcare, education as well as other enterprises. And people have few defenses against AI algorithms and models that reinforce the prejudice and racism that permeate our society as a legacy of historical segregation. It has consistently been shown that black and brown people suffered disproportionately in case of discriminatory use of personal data.

Facebook Meta owner, for example, recently settled civil rights lawsuit initiated by the Department of Justice and agreed to change the practice of displaying housing ads in a way that discriminated against people of color. academic research showed that facial recognition technology disproportionately discriminates against black and brown people and especially misidentifies black women. Amazon once consulted with the hiring algorithm this penalized resumes for including the word “women’s” and gave lower priority to applicants from two women’s colleges.

All this can be fixed with American privacy and data protection lawa bipartisan and bicameral efforts to protect data privacy and civil rights online. The legislation is one of the most significant changes in federal Internet policy in decades. This will create our civil rights infrastructure to fight discrimination in the data economy. He recently left the committee with overwhelming support: 53-2 votes.

American privacy and data protection law defends civil rights online. It prohibits the discriminatory use of personal data; requires bias testing for algorithms that determine access to and eligibility for major economic opportunities; requires companies to collect, use or share only the data necessary to deliver the services consumers expect; and ensures reasonable enforcement. Importantly, the bill allows individuals to sue companies that violate their rights. The Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general, and government privacy agencies will also be able to enforce the law.

There are ways to improve the legislation, such as adding a requirement that companies use independent auditors to test their algorithms. But overall, the law is an important step towards ensuring that all Americans have an equal online experience, meaningful privacy rights, and equal access to online goods and services.

Like any bipartisan bill, a compromise is necessary to pass. The US Privacy and Data Protection Act will block some of the state’s laws on the same issues, but will keep others, such as civil rights or consumer protection laws.

California has better privacy laws than other states, but that doesn’t mean they’re actually and objectively strong. Some in California do not want its laws to be repealed. But the laws of the states cannot extend beyond the states in question. Consumers in other states should not remain vulnerable; the price of providing protection for everyone is a single federal standard. The price is steep, but worth it.

Moreover, according to privacy advocate analysisthe proposed federal law is stronger than any of the state’s data protection laws, including California law.

For example, unlike federal law, state data laws do not expressly prohibit discriminatory use of information collected online. They do not require that algorithms be tested for bias or that companies deliberately provide consumers with privacy. They don’t give you the right to sue.

The analysis shows that the federal bill also contains stronger provisions for child data protection, location tracking, health information, and regulation of data brokers.

Privacy rights are civil rights. Data privacy laws must ensure that who we are cannot be used against us unfairly. Legislators must protect all Americans by passing the American Privacy and Data Protection Act.

David Brody – Managing Associate Digital Justice Initiative in Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law.