Security agendaThe Obama administration today unveiled a new consumer-privacy plan designed to help better protect users’ rights online, including a privacy “bill of rights” that spells out exactly what consumers should expect from the companies they work with online. In conjunction with this new initiative, Google has said that it finally will add the do-not-track button to its Chrome browser.

The new blueprint from the White House includes a number of elements, some of which are new and others of which are simply reiterations of existing policies or programs. But this is seen as the first time an administration has enumerated such a broad set of privacy policies. The linchpin of the Obama administration’s plan is the privacy bill of rights, which is a seven-point policy meant to spell out how consumers should expect to be treated online and how their data should be handled.

Officials at the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will be bringing together a group of executives from technology companies and consumer privacy advocates to develop a set of policies that companies should abide by and that will build on enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission.

“American Internet users should have the right to control personal information about themselves. Based on globally accepted privacy principles originally developed in the United States, the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights is a comprehensive statement of the rights consumers should expect and the obligations to which companies handling personal data should commit. These rights include the right to control how personal data is used, the right to avoid having information collected in one context and then used for an unrelated purpose, the right to have information held securely, and the right to know who is accountable for the use or misuse of an individual’s personal data,” the administration’s plan says.

The components of the privacy bill of rights include:

  • Individual control: Consumers have a right to exercise control over what personal data companies collect from them and how they use it.
  • Transparency: Consumers have a right to easily understandable and accessible information about privacy and security practices.
  • 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.
  • 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 to consumers if the data is inaccurate.
  • Focused collection: Consumers have a right to reasonable limits on the personal data that companies collect and retain.
  • 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.

The administration’s privacy report is a prelude to officials putting together a proposed privacy law that encompasses the principles spelled out in the document.

“The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights outlines the basic principles the Administration believes should be reflected in a privacy law and will work with Congress to enact these rights,” the plan says.

At the same time that the Obama administration laid out its privacy agenda, Google officials said that the company will now include the do-not-track option in Chrome. The do-not-track technology allows users to indicate to Web sites that they don’t want their activities and movements tracked across sites through the use of tracking cookies. Both Apple and Microsoft have included this option in their browsers already.

Categories: Government, Web Security