Obama unveils push for Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

Obama unveils push for Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

Summary: President Obama Thursday unveiled a model for a "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights" that includes input from companies, privacy advocates, international partners and other stakeholders.

TOPICS: Security, Legal

President Obama Thursday unveiled a model to protect consumer's privacy online and outlined the centerpiece called the "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights."

In the face of growing online privacy debates, the White House hopes to provide users with more control over their personal information while giving business opportunities to thrive in the evolving digital markets.

The Obama model has three parts in addition to the Privacy Bill of Rights: how the rights will apply in a business context, enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and integration between the United States' effort and those of international partners.

As part of the announcement, the Administration said the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) hopes to tap web browser technology that controls online tracking as part of a Do Not Track campaign. The DAA says Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL will comply when users choose to limit tracking, and the FTC will provide enforcement.

"American consumers can't wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online," President Obama said.

The announcement was met with mixed reviews.  The Center for Digital Democracy said it would join negotiation to develop new consumer online privacy safeguards.

"We recognize that in the absence of federal legislation, the inability of the FTC to issue regulations, and the ever-increasing digital data collection system, some progress must be made to protect consumers," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD).

But Chester said he is concerned the DAA's work could collide with privacy work at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The W3C's Tracking Protection Working Group has been meeting since September 2011, and holds weekly teleconferences.

The group's charter states it is working to "improve user privacy and user control by defining mechanisms for expressing user preferences around Web tracking and for blocking or allowing Web tracking elements." Microsoft, Mozilla, the FTC, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the European Union Commission and the CDD have all provided in-put.

In addition, the CDD and the Electronic Privacy Information Center both said they were concerned that the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights only went as far as to outline codes of conduct instead of hard and fast rules.

"We would have preferred the White House to introduce new legislation that clearly protected consumers online," said Chester.

The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights is outlined in a report released today entitled: Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy.

The White House has tapped the Commerce Department to bring together companies, privacy advocates and other stakeholders to develop and implement privacy policies.

The seven tenets of the Bills of Rights are:

  • 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.

Topics: Security, Legal


John Fontana is a journalist focusing on authentication, identity, privacy and security issues. Currently, he is the Identity Evangelist for strong authentication vendor Yubico, where he also blogs about industry issues and standards work, including the FIDO Alliance.

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  • RE: Obama unveils push for Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

    This is a joke. It has no teeth and is obviously a publicity stunt.
    • RE: Obama unveils push for Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights


      The US Constitution does not guarantee a right to privacy so SCOTUS will overturn any laws Obama or anyone else tries to do that mandates privacy protections. We aren't the US Corporate states of America for nothing...
      • Unless you are talking about abortion

        then the right to privacy is etched into the very atomic structure of the Constitution.
    • It's not a law yet

      It has no teeth because it's not a law. It's an outline. The idea is to get everyone together and flesh it out and then to put it into bill form and go from there.
  • Youre kidding right? Obama takes so much money from google.

    Can you say DOJ approving googorola without requiring googorola to honor their frand promises. How many nights did eric schmidt spend in the lincoln bedroom for that?
    Johnny Vegas
  • RE: Obama unveils push for Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

    Just another way for Obama to expand government in to our personal lives.
    Test Subject
  • this is the big nanny state at work

    get the government off our backs and let companies like google innovate freely.
    The user is smart enough when it accepts the term of service, no big brother supervision is required. We, the people know to how to discern reputable companies like google from other fly by night peeping Toms.
    The Linux Geek
    • RE: Obama unveils push for Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

      @The Linux Geek
      Hahaha! Nice one...
      • well we do know that the govt doesnt respect current Bill of Rights

        So why should we expect them to respect privacy.

        Oh wait, this is about the govt telling OTHER people how to do things. This is one area where govt is successful: Telling other people what to do while ignoring those same regulations themselves.
    • Unfortunately, you're wrong...

      While I don't thing government intervention is the answer for everything, "we, the people" have shown time and time again that we do not know how to discern reputable companies from those with malicious intentions.

      "We" continuously fall for FakeAV and other social engineering/phishing attacks, "we" not only allow, but whole heartedly endorse our government as they pass laws that erode our rights (some leveraging corporate America, like telcos, to do the dirty work), "we" rush to hand over personal information as "we" post every little detail of our lives online for everyone to see, "we" install apps on our phones without even glancing at the permissions they require, and it goes on and on.

      The ZDNet community may be more vigilant, but the average American has proven to be anything but. Again, that's not necessarily a request for the government to intervene, but rather a statement as to why our government is even feels there's a chance "this dog will hunt".
  • do not track

    Unfortunately I agree with the above commentators that it has no teeth. Hopefully that will be realized and a more comprehensive proposal, complete with enforcement and mandatory participation, ala the suggestion here: http://jolt.richmond.edu/v18i1/article2.pdf will come to being.
  • Actually it's not a bad start

    Laws only have "teeth" when they are enforced. Under the Bush administration, environmental groups had to often sue to get existing laws enforced. But in this case, it sounds much along the same lines of existing rules governing how sensitive information is transmitted and stored, which is reasonable and totally enforceable.
  • This from the folks who have DHS personnel snooping facebook

    posts, has a truth squad and wants citizens to inform on their neighbors to a white house web site when said neighbor is critical of the government.
  • Intervention

    If the U.S. government wouldn't have put it's nose into something where it doesn't belong in the first place, stuff like this wouldn't need to happen. The DOJ has no authority over the internet, nor does any government for that matter. The user should have the right to do whatever they like on the web.
    That being said piracy and the like (viruses phishing etc) is something that the users of the internet that know how to code and hack need to fight back against/find a way to deal with. There are white hats out there too. The users should govern themselves.
  • Make opt-in the default

    Having opt-out as the default is an admission that U.S. citizens, as far as the government is concerned, are corporations. Individuals are merely consumers.
    Rabid Howler Monkey