The Obama administration has released a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to “guide efforts to give users more control over how their personal information is used on the Internet and to help businesses maintain consumer trust and grow in the rapidly changing digital environment.” The Privacy Bill of Rights—which is detailed in full in a report released by the White House entitled Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy—establishes a baseline for the protection for consumer data by outlining 7 rights consumers can expect in relation to their private data:
- Individual Control: Consumers have a right to exercise control over what personal data organizations collect from them and how they use it.
- Transparency: Consumers have a right to easily understandable information about privacy and security practices.
- Respect for Context: Consumers have a right to expect that organizations will collect, use, and disclose personal data in ways that are consistent with the context in which consumers provide the data.
- Security: Consumers have a right to secure and responsible handling of personal data.
- Access and Accuracy: Consumers have a right to access and correct personal data in usable formats, in a manner that is appropriate to the sensitivity of the data and the risk of adverse consequences to consumers if the data are inaccurate.
- Focused Collection: Consumers have a right to reasonable limits on the personal data that companies collect and retain.
- Accountability: Consumers have a right to have personal data handled by companies with appropriate measures in place to assure they adhere to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.
With the declaration by President Barack Obama that, “American consumers can’t wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online,” The White House has devised a framework that can go ahead with or without Congressional support. In tandem with the Privacy Bill of Rights, the report also blueprints three other elements to a privacy strategy. The first will see the National Telecommunications and Information Administration at the United States Department of Commerce undertake stakeholder consultation to determine practices or codes of conduct that outline how these rights apply in particular business contexts. The stakeholder-driven process will include “companies, privacy and consumer advocates, technical experts, international partners, and academics”.
The privacy blueprint also refers enforcement of practices or codes of conduct to the Federal Trade Commission. A failure of a company that voluntarily commits to a practice or code and fails to comply may constitute a deceptive act or practice, warranting FTC fines or other punitive action. Finally, the blueprint hopes to achieve greater interoperability between the United States’ privacy framework and those of other jurisdictions.
It’s an ambitious plan. But with privacy being one of the biggest concerns held by consumers in relation to their online activities, it’s no wonder this is a Presidential campaign platform. Both TechCrunch and Reuters have good write ups on the privacy blueprint (links below).
White House Unveils Plans For Consumer Privacy Bill Of Rights Sarah Perez on TechCrunch, 23 February 2012.
We Can’t Wait: Obama Administration Unveils Blueprint for a “Privacy Bill of Rights” to Protect Consumers Online on whitehouse.gov, 23 February 2012; White House privacy push seeks cooperation Jasmin Melvin and Joseph Menn on Reuters, 23 February 2012.