‘Privacy bill of rights’: Advocacy groups, industry weigh in

There was a lot of reaction Thursday fromonline privacy advocates and Internet companies to the White House’s “privacy bill of rights” — much of it positive.


View Photo Gallery: In recent years, lawmakers and advocacy groups have made increased efforts to protects users’ privacy online. Here are some cases that helped stoke the debate about tracking and privacy on the Web.

The “privacy bill of rights” lays out seven basic concepts that all consumers should be able to expect from web companies. It’s contained in a larger report that also proposes that the Federal Trade Commission enforce industry self-regulatory codes.

In conjunction with the report’s release, the Digital Advertising Alliance, an industry trade group, announced that its members will implement “Do Not Track” technology in web browsers.

Privacy expert Lisa Sotto said that the decision to let the FTC take a stronger enforcement role shows the administration “is taking a ‘trust but verify’ approach to designing a new U.S. privacy framework.”

“The Administration would seek implementation of a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights by way of enforceable Codes of Conduct that would be derived through a collaborative process involving multiple stakeholders,” she said in a statement. “But the Administration does not put its faith entirely in the stakeholders to implement the Bill of Rights through Codes of Conduct; the Administration also calls for legislation to enact the Bill of Rights into law, as well as stronger FTC enforcement authority.”

Chris Wolf, the co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum, echoed those comments, saying this is a “co-regulation” model, and one that he believes will help the U.S. address privacy in an era of changing technological innovation. In a statement, Wolf said he hopes lawmakers in Europe will look to this same model as a potential one for regulation.

Privacy advocate Justin Brookman, of the Center forDemocracy and Technology, also said in a statement that the announcement is a step in the right direction. He gave the advertising industry credit for voluntarily implementing “do not track” technology” in web browsers.

“The industry deserves credit for this commitment, though the details of exactly what 'Do Not Track' means still need to be worked out,” Brookman said.

CDT president Leslie Harris said that she supports the call for a consensus on privacy issues, but added that she believes legislation is still ultimately necessary to protect consumers.

The Software and Information Industry Association said it welcomes the White House’s decision to include many stakeholders in crafting the proposal but ultimately can’t “endorse this proposal as a legislative initiative,” said SIAA president Ken Wasch in a statement.

“These principles can be made more specific through industry sector codes of conduct, and compliance can be assured through the existing authority of the Federal Trade Commission,” he said.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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