Obama steps up fight for online consumer protection with ‘Privacy Bill of Rights’

February 24, 2012

The Obama administration has unveiled a new framework for protecting Americans’ data on the Internet, including a commitment to technology that allows consumers to opt out of tracking, the government announced today.

“American consumers can’t wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online,” said President 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. For businesses to succeed online, consumers must feel secure. 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.”

Online privacy concerns has attracted an increasing level of scrutiny over the past few months, with Google making a sweeping controversial change to its privacy policies and the Path contact-stealing debacle that eventually exposed other iOS apps that invade your privacy.

The new “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” wants to put a stop to companies taking user data without notifying them and giving people the option to not be tracked. The government said that 90 percent of companies that control online behavioral ads, including Google, Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo, have already agreed to the framework to let consumers get out of being tracked online. By making that agreement, these companies will be subject to enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission.

The pillars of the bill are:

While the bill is awfully vague, it’s a step in the right direction to help legislators in Congress come up with new ways to protect consumers online. And while the focus of this bill seems to be on advertisers like Google and AOL, it’s a shame Facebook — the company that controls and sells 800 million users’ worth of data — didn’t even get a single mention in the White House’s announcement blog post.

Do you think this is a step in the right direction for online privacy? What else would you like to see done?

Obama vs. Darth Vader photo: Michael Verdi/Flickr

Copyright 2012, VentureBeat

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