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Personal information collected by companies at risk

Alex Gonzalez
10 Feb 2024

Arizona is among states that have considered passing consumer privacy laws but have yet to do so. While the state doesn't have anything on the books, one expert contends it is an opportunity for Arizona to take action.

R.J. Cross, co-author of Arizona PIRG Education Fund's "The State of Privacy" report, along with experts from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, evaluated how states' privacy laws aim to protect users. They found what they call "weak, industry-friendly" laws that allow tech companies to collect data about consumers without "meaningful limits."

The more data companies collect from users, she said, the more that data is at risk.

"Industry lobbyists are playing a full-court press in the states, pressuring lawmakers who want to protect consumers to water down their bills," she said, "and it is unfortunate how many times we have seen that be successful."

Cross, director of the PIRG Education Fund's Don't Sell My Data Campaign, said no laws should be written by the companies they are meant to regulate. Despite Congress having failed to enact the American Data Privacy and Protection Act in 2022, the report says state legislators can use its bipartisan framework to adapt existing state laws or create new ones.

More than 80 percent of Americans are concerned about how companies collect and use their data, according to the Pew Research Center.

As more tech companies collect data, Cross said, the more our data is at risk of being exposed in a breach or hack. That means valuable information can end up in the hands of identity thieves, scammers or brokers that buy and sell data. Cross called on Arizona and federal policy makers to step up and better protect consumers' data, but added that, in the meantime consumers can take proactive steps to protect themselves by not using web cookies and downloading the Consumer Reports app called "Permission Slip" that can tell data brokers to delete their data.

"You can download that," she said, "and send one deletion request to hundreds of companies with one push of a button, saying, 'Hey, if you have my data, I want you to delete it.' Again that is totally free from Consumer Reports and we do strongly suggest that people, while we are waiting for strong regulations, take advantage of that."

While some states have passed laws, Cross said, they have loopholes that allow companies to continue collecting data. She added that certain laws may grant consumers the right to ask for the deletion of their data, but said that could mean individual requests have to be sent to every company, which is what Cross called a "part-time job."

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