Developing a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights | Citizens Against Government Waste

Developing a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

The WasteWatcher

As the use of online services increases, reports about the tracking and monitoring of consumers’ online use by government and corporations are on the rise.

The additional business has led to increased user concerns about confusing privacy policies and profile settings, which have in turn come under fire by privacy advocates, lawmakers and others. For example, in response to Google’s planned changes to its privacy policy set to go into effect on March 1, 2012, the attorneys general of 36 states sent a letter expressing their unease to Google CEO Larry Page on February 22, 2012. This letter follows concerns already expressed by lawmakers in Congress. A February 29, 2012 article in the Daily Mail further stated that European Union authorities believe that Google’s new privacy policy is vague and difficult to understand, and may violate the European Directive on Data Protection. On February 24, 2012, a federal judge ruled against a request by privacy advocacy groups to force the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the company for any potential violations in implementing the new policy changes.

But private industry is not alone in tracking individual use of the Internet. On January 16, 2012, Computer World reported on a revelation that the Department of Homeland Security was participating in monitoring activity. A February 14, 2012 article announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had requested information about products that would automatically search and scrape off data from social media networking sites to obtain information about users.

These are just a few examples of the difficulties consumers have in protecting their online identity and Internet use. To determine how best to address the protection of consumer online privacy, Congress has held a number of hearings on the issue, and legislation has been introduced to address consumer concerns. On Thursday, February 23, 2012, the White House released its own proposal for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights intended to provide greater privacy protections for consumers.

Similar to legislation offered by Senators John Kerry(D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), the provisions in the administration’s proposal would provide consumers with more individual control over what personal data is collected by companies; easily understandable and accessible information about privacy and security practices; the expectation by consumers that companies will collect, use and disclose personal data in a manner that is consistent with the context in which consumers have provided the data; secure and responsible handling of personal data; the ability to correct inaccurate data; a right to reasonable limits on the personal data collected and retained by companies; and the assurance that companies will handle their data with appropriate measures in place in compliance with the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

Addressing issues such as data privacy, security and global harmonization of rules highlighted in the Business Software Alliance’s 2012 edition of its Global Cloud Computing Scorecard, the administration’s proposal offers a framework for achieving a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights by encouraging the development and use of enforceable privacy codes of conduct by multiple stakeholders, creating enforcement authority for the FTC and state attorneys general, and increasing global interoperability between the U.S. consumer data privacy framework and those of other countries.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the administration is not waiting for Congress to act on privacy legislation. The White House is already planning to meet with industry groups to ask them to voluntarily agree to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. However, as part of the administration’s proposal, the FTC would be provided enforcement authority under the FTC Act’s prohibition on unfair or deceptive practices over companies that have voluntarily agreed to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to ensure adherence to the administration’s proposal.

Companies such as Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! have already taken the initiative and are planning to add “do not track” options to their web browser software. However, the “do not track” feature would not prevent all consumer online tracking. The Wall Street Journal

Sign Up For Email Updates

Optional Member Code