At a press event today at the White House, the Obama administration will take the wraps off its plan to address the growing threats to American consumers' online privacy and security.
The high-profile setting for today's announcements signals a new seriousness by the Administration, showing that it intends to tackle head-on the kind of corporate practices that have led in recent months to privacy controversies at Google and Facebook and major security breaches at retailer Zappos and the Sony PlayStation Network.
Today's announcements include the introduction of a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and a commitment by the advertising industry to support the "Do Not Track" tools now included in such Web browsers as
Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Internet Explorer. [Google says it will implement a Do Not Track privacy feature into Chrome by the end of this year, according to Cnet.]
Here are some major points contained in the Privacy Bill of Rights (I'll post more details on today's other announcements shortly as I report from the event):
- Companies should provide consumers with control over their personal data through easily used and accessible tools that include the ability to withdraw or limit a consumer's consent.
- Consumers have a right to clear information about a company's privacy and security practices, including what data the company collects, how it uses it, and for what purposes it may share it.
- Companies should limit the use and disclosure of personal data to purposes consistent with their relationship with consumers.
- Companies should maintain reasonable safeguards to control risks to consumer data, such as unauthorized access and improper disclosure.
- Consumers have a right to access and correct their personal data.
- Companies should collect only the personal data they need and dispose of or de-identify data they no longer need.
- Companies should be accountable to enforcement authorities for adhering to this Bill of rights.
Consumer advocates were upbeat about today's announcements. Ellen Bloom, senior director o federal policy for Consumers Union, the consumer advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, said:
This is a good day for consumers. The Administration's Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights puts the right amount of focus on transparency around data collection and its use, and giving individuals more control over their information. We like that. And we thank the FTC and advertising industry for helping breathe new life into Do-Not-Track tools for consumers. This is a welcome step toward one day having a single, simple, and persistent tool to opt out of being tracked online. We hope that day comes soon.
For tips and advice on staying safe online, see our Guide to Online Security at ConsumerReports.org.