White House Develops Online Privacy Blueprint

by Matt Klassen on February 24, 2012

Evidence that this whole digital age, advanced technology thing is here to stay the government finally got around to proposing some regulation, as yesterday the Obama Administration unveiled a blueprint for protecting consumer rights on the Internet, a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights (PDF). While nothing revolutionary, the Bill draws on generally recognized global privacy principles and adapts them to the current commercial Internet ecosystem in an effort to put information control back in the hands of consumers…and not in the hands of Internet companies.

The announcement comes after months of increasing criticism directed towards the likes of Google, Apple, and other technology companies, with some companies blamed for their tacit lack of respect for consumer’s privacy rights while others have found to be explicitly exploiting consumer privacy for financial gain.

In fact, the privacy situation has got so out of hand that as President Obama said in his statement, “The American consumer can’t wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online.”

Part of a larger more comprehensive document titled, “Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World,” the proposed Consumer Bill of Rights centres primarily on user information control and corporate responsibility to use private information in good faith. Here’s a few of the key points:

  • Consumers have a right to exercise control over what personal data companies collect from them and how they use it
  • Consumers have a right to easily understandable and accessible information about privacy and security practices
  • Consumers have a right to expect that companies will collect, use, and disclose personal data in ways that are consistent with the context in which consumers provide the data
  • Consumers have a right to secure and responsible handling of personal data
  • 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 is inaccurate
  • Consumers have a right to reasonable limits on the personal data that companies collect and retain
  • 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

The White House also announced that key Internet companies, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL, have all agreed to comply with the new Bill of Rights, meaning that when such legislation is passed by Congress (which the White House is urging it to do) such practices related to maintaining privacy will be enforced and governed by the Federal Trade Commission.

While such legislation is much needed in free-for-all era of privacy infringement, don’t assume that it takes the onus off of us, the average Internet users, to protect our own information. Not wanting to relinquish access to your private information, you can bet that these companies who have already thrown their support behind this Bill are already working on ways to legally bypass, or at least sufficiently muddle, the standards so users will still continue to click ‘accept’ and still continue to provide companies with their private information…although once users find out just how useless modern technology is without access to such information, they may not need to be tricked at all.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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