Posted on | February 23, 2012 | 3 comments
By Byron Acohido, USA TODAY, 23FEB2012, P1B
The White House on Wednesday unveiled a strongly worded â€œConsumer Privacy Bill of Rightsâ€™â€™ as the linchpin for a drive to get Congress to pass new laws protecting consumers privacy as they surf the Internet.
One of the seven privacy rights, unveiled at a press conference by Commerce Secretary John Bryson guarantees consumers the â€œright to exercise control over what personal data organizations collect from them and how they use it.â€
The Commerce Department will now commence a series of meetings inviting privacy advocates, consumer groups and key players in the tech and online advertising industries to hash out â€œenforceable privacy policies,â€ Bryson said.
In a statement, President Obama said, â€œAmerican consumers canâ€™t wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online. As the Internet evolves, consumer trust is essential for the continued growth of the digital economy. â€œ
Meanwhile, the Digital Advertising Alliance an industry trade group, announced it has begun work on a more visible and effective Do Not Track mechanism to add to a self-policing system in effect for all of the consortiumâ€™s members. The Federal Trade Commission separately has backed a call for a Do Not Track system buttressed by new federal laws.
Daniel Weitzner, the White House deputy chief technical officer, said the Obama Administrationâ€™s goal is to get Congress to draft and pass new privacy laws using the privacy bill of rights as a framework.
â€œWe now have a much more focused blueprintâ€ Weitzner said. â€œWeâ€™ll use our bully pulpit to get legislation passed based on these principals.â€
The push comes as Google, Facebook and Apple have come under fire from some members of Congress and the FTC for tracking consumers as they use their PCs and mobile devices on the Internet, often without asking permission.
The Obama administration recognizes that â€œwe need to make meaningful changes to preserve consumer trust and confidence,â€ says Craig Spiezle, executive director of the non-profit Online Trust Association. â€œAt the same time, we need to preserve innovation. Balancing the two is a challenge.â€
Getting a divided Congress to pass any hard-edged privacy legislation is another challenge.
“The real question is how much influence companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook will have in their inevitable attempt to water down the rules that are implemented and render them essentially meaningless,” says John Simpson, spokesman for Consumer Watchdog. ” I am skeptical about the ‘multi-stakeholder process’, but am willing to make a good faith effort to try it.
Simpson and others remain concerned about the Commerce Department’s role in shaping consumer privacy protections. ” Commerce’s job — quite correctly — is to promote the interests of business, not protect consumers,” he says. “If nothing else, the report demonstrates the growing concern about online privacy. Perhaps this is one of the few issues where true bipartisan action will be possible this year.”