My Health, My Data Act: A Model for Effective Privacy Legislation
April 27, 2023
By: Jason Sarfati, Chief Privacy Officer & VP of Legal, Gravy Analytics
Location data is an invaluable tool for businesses and researchers alike. It can be used to understand consumer behavior, optimize supply chains, and enable more effective advertising. Additionally, location data can be used to support research in fields like public health, emergency management, and urban planning, where understanding how people move and interact is critical. It’s clear that the collection and analysis of location data has opened up new opportunities for innovation and progress. However, it also raises important questions about privacy and data governance.
Consumers are understandably concerned about how their data is collected, used, and shared. While location data can be used to deliver personalized services and experiences, many consumers worry that their location data could be used for nefarious purposes or could be misused by businesses or governments. In response to these concerns, lawmakers at the state and federal levels have introduced a variety of privacy bills aimed at protecting consumer data. However, it is crucial that new laws enhance consumer privacy protections while still preserving the beneficial uses of location data—many of which have already led to significant advancements in business and society.
One of the most promising recent examples of a privacy bill that strikes this balance is the My Health, My Data Act (HB 1155) in Washington State, which is scheduled to be signed by Governor Inslee in the coming weeks. As originally drafted, the Act would have prohibited geofencing around in-person healthcare facilities for virtually any reason, including beneficial use cases like trade area analysis, commuter planning, and supply chain and logistics support. In doing so, legislators would have disrupted vital economic activity that would have inevitably resulted in adverse impacts on the quality of life for everyday Washingtonians. However, after extensive public advocacy work by a number of think tanks, industry associations, and key players in the private sector, the bill was amended to only preclude geofencing in cases where it would identify or track consumers seeking healthcare services; collect consumer health data from consumers; or send notifications, messages, or ads to consumers related to their health data. This critical update helped achieve the ultimate goal of all privacy practitioners: finding a well-balanced compromise that allowed businesses to continue serving the public while also protecting the growing privacy needs of our community.
This amendment is a prime example of successful collaboration between industry and lawmakers toward the common goal of enacting meaningful privacy laws. This type of collaboration is key to ensuring that privacy laws are not only effective, but also practical and beneficial for all stakeholders involved. However, despite the progress made with the My Health, My Data Act, there is still much work to be done at the federal level. Specifically, the latest version of the American Data Privacy and Protection Act still contains some shortcomings, particularly with respect to the Act’s proposed data minimization requirements on location data. These shortcomings could have significant consequences for businesses, researchers, and consumers alike.
To address these concerns, key players in the location data industry and lawmakers need to continue to work together to create laws that protect consumer privacy without hampering the essential use cases that benefit businesses and society as a whole. This will require open communication and collaboration between all parties involved, including business leaders, policymakers, researchers, and consumers.
Ultimately, the collection and analysis of location data can be highly advantageous for businesses and society at large. Whether it’s improving communities or boosting local economies, enhancing public health research or supporting emergency management, location data can help us tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time. However, to realize these benefits, we must work together to develop privacy-friendly regulations that balance the need for data collection with the protection of consumer privacy. By doing so, we can build a future where the power of location data is harnessed to make meaningful advancements while ensuring that individuals’ privacy rights are protected.