White House Unveils Blueprint for a Privacy Bill of Rights: Proposed Legislation Is a First Step in the Process to Strengthen Online Consumer Protections

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The Obama administration on February 23 unveiled the blueprint for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to improve consumer privacy protections online and give consumers more control over how companies and data aggregators use their personal information.

The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration will convene companies, privacy and consumer advocates, technical experts, international partners, and academics to establish specific practices or codes of conduct around seven principles:

* Individual Control: Consumers have a right to exercise control over what personal data organizations collect from them and how they use it.

* Transparency: Consumers have a right to easily understandable information about privacy and security practices.

* Respect for Context: Consumers have a right to expect that organizations will collect, use, and disclose personal data in ways that are consistent with the context in which they provide the data.

* Security: Consumers have a right to secure and responsible handling of personal data.

* 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 if the data is inaccurate.

* Focused Collection: Consumers have a right to reasonable limits on the data that companies collect and retain.

* Accountability: Consumers have a right to have data handled by companies with measures in place to assure they adhere to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

"American consumers can't wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online," said President Barack Obama, in a statement. "As the Internet evolves, consumer trust is essential for the continued growth of the digital economy. That's why an online privacy bill of rights is so important.... By following this blueprint, companies, consumer advocates, and policymakers can help protect consumers and ensure the Internet remains a platform for innovation and economic growth."

So far, leading Internet companies and online advertising networks are committing to act on "Do Not Track" technology offered through major Web browsers. Companies that deliver nearly 90 percent of online behavioral advertisements, including Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL, have agreed to comply when consumers indicate that they do not want data collected. The advertising industry also committed to not release consumers' browsing data to companies that might use it for purposes other than advertising. …