Obama Administration calls for new privacy law
Data privacy bill of rights needed to fend off online data collection
Computerworld - The Obama Administration is backing a new data privacy bill of rights aimed at protecting consumers against indiscriminate online tracking and data collection by advertisers.
In testimony prepared for the Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation, the Commerce Department's assistant secretary, Lawrence Strickling, said that the White House wants Congress to enact legislation offering "baseline consumer data privacy protections."
Such a bill is needed to protect personal data in situations not covered under current law, Strickling said, adding that any legislation should be based on a set of fair information practice principles and give the U.S. Federal Trade Commission enforcement authority. He also called for incentives to encourage the development of codes of conduct on privacy matters.
Strickling said the administration's call for new online privacy protections stems from recommendations made by the Commerce Department in a paper released in December. Many of those in the industry who weighed in on the idea at the time backed the creation of a new online consumer privacy law, he said.
The document was based on a comprehensive review of existing privacy protections and of ongoing data collection, consumer tracking and profiling practices online.
The administration's support for privacy protections is very significant, said Joel Reidenberg, a professor at Fordham Law School who specializes in privacy issues. "This is the first time since 1974 that the U.S. government has supported mandatory general privacy rules," Reidenberg said.
The U.S. Data Privacy Act, passed in 1974, is a broad privacy rule originally meant to cover both the private sector and federal agencies. But it was tweaked at the last moment to apply only to government agencies, Reidenberg said.
The administration's support is being driven by heightened concerns about rampant and uncontrolled online data collection practices now prevalent, he said. The fears "have finally coalesced into a significant enough concern among the public that the administration is responding. I think there is recognition that data has been such a fuel for economic activity but in a one-side way."
All too often in recent years consumers have been unaware of how their information was being collected and used, he said. Some high-profile examples include Facebook's personal data collection practices and Google's problems over its Street View Wi-Fi snooping issue.
"If Congress acts, I believe it will be a major advance for Americans' privacy," he said.
Erica Newland, a policy analyst at the Center for Democracy and Technology, today said that the White House's support for a new privacy bill will help its passage in Congress.
"This is incredibly significant that the White House has backed comprehensive privacy legislation," Newland said. The support signals the importance of the issue, she said. The fact that the Commerce Department is solidly behind the bill is also noteworthy because it highlights the broad industry support that appears to exist for a privacy bill.
Any privacy law would need to be based on broadly accepted fair information practice principles, she said. The focus needs to be on data minimization, as well as notice and choice for consumers, with any new law remaining flexible enough to accommodate change, she added.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.
- NSA defends collecting data from U.S. residents not suspected of terrorist activities
- Groups fear bill would allow free flow of data between private sector and NSA
- Google's move into home automation means even less privacy
- Bill to require warrant for email searches gains ground in House
- Coming soon to a fridge near you -- targeted ads
- Snowden leaks prompt tech firms to tout privacy, transparency policies
- License reader lawsuit can be heard, appeals court rules
- Is EU's 'right to be forgotten' really the 'right to edit the truth'?
- Tails 1.0: A bootable Linux distro that protects your privacy
- Privacy jitters derail controversial K-12 big data initiative
Read more about Privacy in Computerworld's Privacy Topic Center.
- Deep Security +VMware vSphere with Operations Management Most midsize organizations are highly virtualized on VMware, and while this has produced significant savings, it also has created new challenges when it...
- Single-Vendor Security Ecosystems Offer Concrete Benefits Over Point Solutions IT security decision-makers from companies with 100 to 5,000 employees evaluates the current endpoint security solution market based on Forrester's own market data,...
- Best Practices for Security and Compliance with Amazon Web Services This paper will discuss what part of the shared responsibility equation customers are responsible for and what some of the recommended security practices...
- Case Study: Intuit Turns to Self-Service IT Intuit empowered its users to resolve their own IT issues with a consumer-like experience to free IT to focus on more strategic initiatives....
- Business-driven data protection Setting up data protection infrastructures with your organizations' core mission or business in mind is key. In this webinar, the ARCserve team will...
- On-Demand Webinar: Mind the Gap! Watch the webinar featuring Bob Janssen, CTO and Co-Founder of RES Software, to start building a solid foundation for business and IT to... All Gov't Legislation/Regulation White Papers | Webcasts