Large technology companies deploy nationalist arguments to suggest that U.S. incorporation equals a guarantee that their business models will not undermine U.S. national security or U.S. foreign policy. Without federal privacy law restricting data collection and sharing, it remains a wild exaggeration. This data transmission ecosystem allows data on U.S. citizens to end up in the hands of a foreign government, threatening national security and potentially sabotaging U.S. diplomacy and foreign policy activities. Also weak American credibility regarding data; if the White House takes action against individual Chinese technology firms while Congress, for example, does not pass a privacy law in an effort to eliminate potential means by which Beijing can spy on U.S. citizens, the U.S. appears to be more focused on targeting companies than on mitigating overall data – diffusion damage.
These Big Tech arguments, however, relate to another concern over a weak U.S. privacy law: distrust of U.S. technology companies overseas.
There are countless legitimate reasons why American technology giants have problems with their reputation abroad mere market power i extensive lobbying to enabling the spread of hatred online and massive, exploitative data collection more widely. Phrases such as “data colonialism” and “digital colonialism” have been used to characterize this phenomenon, especially when large technology companies enter countries with smaller resources (e.g., Venezuela, Uganda, India), monitor citizens, and extract all value back to their headquarters while retention of other problems like an unequal division of labor.
It doesn’t have to be that way. US civil servants are currently negotiating a transatlantic data transfer agreement with EU counterparts, following an EU court ruling annulment privacy shield framework in July 2020. Some might rightly argue that the Court of Justice will find any reason to annul any data transfer agreements between the EU and the US. But Washington can bolster its position by placing new, real restrictions on the collection, sharing, and use of data by U.S. companies. Although Schrems II, the decision to repeal the Privacy Shield, focused on access to national security data in the U.S., this absence of a firm U.S. privacy law almost always enters the same conversation about inadequacy.
Adopting a strong federal U.S. privacy law could also help U.S. companies face an increasingly complex and fragmented regulatory environment globally. For example, Indian Personal data protection account, introduced in 2019, which is still under discussion, is inspired by the EU GDPR (although it includes a dangerously wide set of exemptions for the state). Brazil’s General Law on Data Protection there is also similarities according to the GDPR. The more other governments pass privacy laws, the greater the risk that U.S. firms face increased regulatory challenges and public distrust around the world.
With all that politicians say about the importance of having competitive US technology firms, this should not be to the detriment of democratic regulations that protect citizens from data misuse – nor should controlling data misuse be seen as the antithesis of a competitive technology sector. Conversely, as more data regimes emerge globally, as Silicon Valley faces increased surveillance in overseas markets, and with confidence in artificial intelligence that will depend in part on a country’s privacy regime, the enactment of a robust federal privacy law could have much used for US technological competitiveness.
Recently announced USA-USA Trade and Technology Council, through which the US and EU member states will participate in the discussion of everything from internet policy to the development of standards, has a strong implicit focus on China. From the G7, Biden repeated focus on providing a “democratic alternative” to the influence of the Chinese government.
Biden’s plan to unite democracies in technology faces many challenges, partly because it is not clear whether framing democracy versus authoritarianism is the best way to combat digital repression. Depending on the execution of the plan, it could also mistakenly overlook disagreements among democracies themselves over how to address technological challenges. EU member states, for example, are barely in step with Washington on a range of Internet policy issues. India is often assigned to the democratic bloc but the fashion of government in these talks repression,, attacks on democracy, i internet abuse question that.