Opinion | The Need for a Strong Privacy Law

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To the Editor:

Re “America’s Privacy Settings Are Wrong” (editorial, March 7):

Changing the default to opt-in for the use of personal data would be a good starting point for a national privacy law, but much more is needed for meaningful data protection.

A baseline federal privacy law should make clear the responsibilities for those companies that choose to collect and use personal data. And the law should establish clear rights for those whose personal data is held by others. Every effort should be made to minimize the collection of personal data where possible.

The United States also needs to update its privacy infrastructure. The Federal Trade Commission can be an effective consumer protection agency, but it has not done well with privacy. We should follow the lead of other democratic countries and establish a data protection agency.

Modern privacy law also needs to consider the challenge of artificial intelligence and the biases that exist in both algorithms and data sets. Mandating transparency of automated decision-making will help ensure fairness and accountability.

There is real urgency in a comprehensive approach to data protection for the United States. The recently settled privacy case against TikTok made clear that the Chinese government has the twin goals of world domination in A.I. and population surveillance and control.

Marc Rotenberg
Washington
The writer is executive director of the Center for A.I. and Digital Policy at the Michael Dukakis Institute.

A Baby Bust Is Beside the Point

To the Editor:

Re “Our Future With Fewer Births” (Sunday Review, March 7):

Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip B. Levine set off a false alarm with their jeremiad about a baby bust triggered in part by Covid-19. This hand-wringing comes at an odd time in U.S. history, when our leaders are reckoning seriously, for the first time, with the imperative of shrinking the devastating environmental footprint of the world’s biggest economy.

What America needs is not more people, but more people gainfully employed in high-productivity jobs that are well matched to the overwhelming challenge facing us: ensuring a high quality of life for all segments of American society while reducing to zero the net carbon emissions of our homes, our transportation systems, our offices and retail establishments, our agricultural sector, and our industries. That is the goal that President Biden has set for our country by 2050.

Freeing America from its reliance on fossil fuels is not a burden. It is an opportunity for America to shine as a leader in developing and deploying new technologies that can benefit our own clean-energy ambitions while opening up new global markets for U.S. goods.

Instead of worrying about an utterly predictable dip in pandemic births, let’s focus our creativity on salvaging this gravely battered planet.

Philip Warburg
Newton, Mass.
The writer is a senior fellow at Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy.

Unionizing at Amazon

To the Editor:

Re “Union Drive at Amazon Turns Into Star-Studded Labor Battle” (front page, March 3):

Heather Knox, an Amazon spokeswoman, says that if Amazon workers vote to unionize, “it’s important associates understand what that means for them and their day-to-day life working at Amazon.”

The answer to that, despite Amazon’s relentless anti-union propaganda campaign, is pretty simple: Workers will be able to join with others to collectively bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions. That’s what unions do, and that’s why unions improve workers’ lives.

Thom Thacker
Irvington, N.Y.

When the Dancing Returns

To the Editor:

Re “We Longed for Parties” (Sunday Review, March 14):

What a beautiful tribute to touch and to the corporeal release of nightlife. As a D.J., I also miss it all.

I miss the deep rumbling of bass beats that dancing bodies amplify. I miss the spontaneous high-fives and hugs after a roaring set. I even miss the half-damp drink tickets.

Here’s to hoping that we can safely dance and kiss again soon. In the meantime, we’ll all have to dance with body pillows in our kitchens.

Melody Cao
San Jose, Calif.

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