Users should have access to their data and be able to opt out of online tracking, according to the Privacy Bill of Rights that President Obama proposed this week.
House has proposed a "bill of rights" to protect consumer privacy
online. The framework that President Obama is advocating allows users to easily
tell Internet companies with one click whether they want their online activity
to be tracked.
Commerce Department will work with companies and privacy advocates to develop
"enforceable" privacy policies based on the proposal, which the White
House released Feb. 22. The bill of rights calls for reasonable limits on the
amount of personal data online companies can try to collect and retain, as well
as the ability of consumers to access and ensure the accuracy of their own
data. The data also has to be stored securely.
with the official White House announcement Feb. 23, the Digital Advertising
Alliance, which represents 90 percent of advertisers associated with Google,
Yahoo and Microsoft's ad networks, agreed to implement a "Do Not
Track" button for major Web browsers to allow users to opt out of
tracking. The current process implemented by Mozilla, Google and Microsoft in
their browsers, is confusing and complicated. The one-click button to make the
process easier will likely be available within nine months, said Stu Ingis, the
DAA's general counsel.
consumers can't wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their
personal information is safe online," Obama said in a statement.
bill of rights does not impose any requirements or have any implementation rules
for companies. The announcement highlighted "key concepts" that the
industry will now have to figure out how to implement, said Ed Goodman, the
chief privacy officer for Identity Theft 911. Congress will have to create
legislation, and the industry has to figure out how personal data can be
collected, stored, used and shared with user consent.
believe legislation will likely be necessary to achieve these protections, we
support the White Papers call for the development of consensus rules on
emerging privacy issues to be worked out by industry, civil society and
regulators," said Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and
Congressional legislation, the Federal Trade Commission would be able to
enforce compliance with the rules developed by the Commerce Department.
"Do Not Track" would remain strictly voluntary. However, companies
that choose to adopt the principles but fail to meet privacy commitments could find
themselves labeled as practitioners of deceptive acts or practices. This would
result in FTC fines or other actions, said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz.
While the FTC
and the Commerce Department have been advocating since 2010 the concept of
"Do Not Track" and demanding online companies make it easier for
consumers to know how their information is being shared, there have been
several industry groups resisting the idea, said Goodman. The bill of rights is
a clear message from the White House that it's time to stop fighting and to
start working on fixing the problem.
The next steps
are up to the industry to move forward, said Goodman.
The FTC had
initially called for Do Not Track and stronger privacy protections in a draft
report released December 2010. A final report is expected soon.
privacy bill of rights is important because if consumers start worrying about
how their information is being used online, they will stop trusting the
Internet and the digital economy. Trust is "essential" for continued
growth, according to the White House.
been tinkering with various ways to handle online tracking over the past year,
but there hasn't been much movement on any of the bills. Internet companies
have argued that privacy should be handled by the industry with no government
regulation. While there have been some movements by Web browser makers to
implement universal opt-out and companies adopting clearer privacy policies,
consumer advocacy groups claim they aren't doing enough to be transparent.
also recently accused of violating the privacy settings in Apples Safari Web
actually a great innovation opportunity for Internet giants like Google and
that really protects and informs users," Tim Keanini, CTO of nCircle,
wrote in an email.
Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Research in Motion reached an agreement
with the state of California to strengthen privacy protections for smartphone
owners who download mobile applications, Attorney General Kamala Harris
announced Feb. 22. Under the agreement, software developers have to post
conspicuous privacy policies detailing what personal information they plan to
obtain and how it will be used. App store providers must also offer a mechanism
for users to report apps that do not comply with the rules.