Every few years, something happens that catalyzes a renewal of public interest in privacy, from the Snowden revelations in 2013 to the Equifax data breach in 2017, the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018 and the Justice Department antitrust investigations of Big Tech in 2020.

But while the Snowden revelations led to reform of NSA surveillance practices and the end of the telephone metadata program, it remains to be seen if these other events will catalyze similar reform for consumer data protection. In fact, the bills introduced by Democratic lawmakers in the wake of the Equifax crisis were blocked in the House, just as GDPR regulations were sweeping the European Union. 

This section of our report seeks to investigate, broadly, what stands in the way of more comprehensive privacy legislation. To this end, we dive into:

  1. The legal and historical origins of privacy as a right
  2. The validity of several hypothesized obstacles to passing privacy legislation (e.g. politicians being less tech-literate, privacy being a partisan issue)
  3. Current and recent attempts at federal and state privacy law
  4. What questions must be answered before government can mobilize on issues of privacy. 


In an attempt to better understand how government thinks about privacy, we spoke with Massachusetts State Representative Michael Day.