Data Privacy Standards in the United States: A Case Study of Facebook
With approximately 2.45 billion monthly active users as of early 2019, Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world. Facebook collects roughly one million data points of sensitive information every minute and utilizes this personal data for targeted advertisements. The majority of American users are unaware, or simply unconcerned, about the infringement of their privacy rights. Furthermore, the United States federal government has no comprehensive legislation protecting citizens’ data privacy, and only twenty-five states have enforceable laws. This thesis first discusses the potential dangers of Facebook’s collection of its users’ personal data, including data breaches. Then, it analyzes data privacy standards in the United States and compares those standards to privacy legislation in other countries in order to make a well- informed suggestion about how our nation might protect personal data. In doing so, this thesis aims to explore fair policy solutions for the United States that keep both consumers and businesses in mind. Although the imposition of legal restraints for Facebook and others is necessary to protect individual data privacy, industry indicators reveal that placing burdensome limits on data collection capabilities could have significant repercussions for companies that provide free social media platforms, which could potentially force them to become paid services. While American policymakers must formulate and update legal measures to address data protection rights in an ever-growing data-driven economy, it is critical that reforms do not overly penalize social networking services.