This week, the Obama administration released a framework
for how companies should protect consumer information online. The White House plans to work with Congress to develop legislation that would protect seven basic rights of Internet consumers:
1. INDIVIDUAL CONTROL: Consumers have a right to exercise control over what personal data companies collect from them and how they use it. Companies should provide consumers appropriate control over the personal data that consumers share with others and over how companies collect, use, or disclose personal data. [...]
2. TRANSPARENCY: Consumers have a right to easily understandable and accessible information about privacy and security practices. [...]
3. RESPECT FOR CONTEXT: 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. [...]
4. SECURITY: Consumers have a right to secure and responsible handling of personal data. [...]
5. 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 is inaccurate. [...]
6. FOCUSED COLLECTION: Consumers have a right to reasonable limits on the personal data that companies collect and retain. [...]
7. 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. [...]
None of these guidelines are enforceable without action from Congress. Nonetheless, companies could voluntarily agree to abide by them, and the Federal Trace Commission could monitor their compliance. But the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will be convening Internet companies and consumer advocates soon, to develop enforceable codes of conduct that comply with the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, building on strong enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission."
The proposal has received generally favorable reviews from consumer and privacy advocates, who see the move as a good first step toward establishing a comprehensive, industry-wide and enforceable policy.