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Online Privacy Rights

Enforcing Civil Rights at the Federal Trade Commission: 

On March 29, the Digital Justice Initiative signed-on to a letter that was sent to the Federal Trade Commission and advocated for nominees that support greater accountability in the tech industry. Communities of color and other marginalized groups are disproportionately impacted by the harms of unregulated technologies and corporate misconduct. The letter, which was sent to the Biden administration and several U.S. Senators, ask that all nominees to the FTC have certain civil rights principles that they will enforce, including making systems transparent and accountable and ending racial-profiling in technology.

Read the letter. 

Model Federal Legislation: 

The Digital Justice Initiative and Free Press Action wrote model federal legislation for Congress to consider in its ongoing debates about online privacy. The legislation is a comprehensive data protection act that builds on decades of civil rights law and experience. It includes sections about discriminatory practices and equal opportunity, unfair processing practices, deceptive processing practices, protection of personal information, and more.  

View the model legislation. 

View a section-by-section summary. 


Endorsement of Legislation Introduced by Congress: 

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law supported the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act and the Privacy Bill of Rights Act in the 116th Congress, both of which contain significant protections against the discriminatory use of personal data. These bills begin to address the disproportionate harm done to marginalized communities as a result of the exploitation of personal information, and include a number of important provisions: 

  • Prohibiting the use of personal data to discriminate in employment, housing, credit, education, or public accommodations on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, familial status, biometric information, lawful source of income, or disability; 
  • A private right of action, so that individuals have the ability to vindicate their own rights. A private right of action is essential because, historically, marginalized communities have not been able to rely upon government actors to protect their rights;  
  • Robust transparency and data security requirements, combined with strong enforcement powers for the Federal Trade Commission;  
  • No preemption of state civil rights or privacy laws; and 
  • Other provisions to protect civil rights and privacy, such as data minimization and prohibitions of forced arbitration.


The Public Health Emergency Privacy Act: 

The “Public Health Emergency Privacy Act” (PHEPA), endorsed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, helps to protect against the risks of widespread surveillance by requiring that the use of COVID tracking tools is voluntary, non-discriminatory, and limited in scope. 

Read the bill here.   


Letters to Congress: 

Working in coalition with other racial justice, civil rights, and tech policy advocates, we sent letters to Congress calling for anti-discrimination protections in federal privacy legislation, specifically citing hoe the exploitation of personal information can lead to voter suppression, digital redlining, discriminatory policing, retail discrimination, identity theft, and more.   

Read the letter.  

Read the principles on civil rights, privacy, and technology.   


Op-Eds and Blog Posts: