White House: Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

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  • White House (Commerce Dept.) Privacy Bill Not Helpful, Unworkable: The White House has released a consumer privacy proposal, prepared by the Commerce Department. The bill falls far short of the recommendations for a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” set out by President Obama in 2012 and broadly supported by consumer organizations. The draft proposal lacks meaningful protections for consumers, would preempt stronger state laws, and create unnecessary regulatory burdens for businesses. EPIC has long recommended enactment of consumer privacy legislation based on “Fair Information Practices,” the basic framework for modern privacy law. (Mar. 2, 2015)
  • EPIC Urges House to Safeguard Consumer Privacy : EPIC has sent a statement to the House Commerce Committee for the hearing, "What are the Elements of Sound Data Breach Legislation?". EPIC had testified before the House Committee in 2011 on data breach notification, urging Congress to set a national baseline standard. EPIC also supports enactment of the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. EPIC also urged the House Committee to promote "algorithmic transparency." EPIC has warned that “[t]he ongoing collection of personal information in the United States without sufficient privacy safeguards has led to staggering increases in identity theft,security breaches, and financial fraud.” (Jan. 26, 2015)
  • Obama Announces New Consumer Privacy Initiatives: Today the President announced several initiatives to help protect consumer privacy following many, many data breaches. The President will move forward the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, a model framework for federal consumer privacy legislation, that EPIC supported in comments to executive agencies, legislators, and the White House. The President also proposed that financial firms disclose credit scores and that Congress enact the Student Digital Privacy Act based on "Fair Information Practices." (Jan. 12, 2015)
  • FTC Finalizes Snapchat Settlement: The Federal Trade Commission has approved a final order with Snapchat, the messaging service that falsely promised that messages sent and received through the service would "disappear forever.” The Commission’s investigation and initial proposed consent order followed a complaint filed by EPIC in 2013. EPIC brought the complaint against Snapchat after a researcher discovered that Snapchat photos could be retrieved by others after they should have vanished. EPIC also filed comments regarding the Commission's proposed consent order, expressing support for the Commission’s findings but recommending that Snapchat should be required to implement the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and make Snapchat's privacy assessments publicly available. Under the settlement, Snapchat will be subject to 20 years of privacy audits, and will be prohibited from making false claims about its privacy policies. For more information, see EPIC: In re Google, EPIC: In re Facebook and EPIC: FTC. (Jan. 2, 2015)
  • After Public Outcry, Microsoft Reverses Course on Email Search: After criticism by bloggers, consumers, and privacy advocates - including EPIC - Microsoft will change a troubling provision in its privacy policy. In March, Microsoft searched a blogger's private Hotmaill account to determine whether the subscriber to the Microsoft service received leaked versions of Windows 8. At the time, Microsoft claimed that the search was permissible under the Microsoft Online terms of service. This week Microsoft, announced it would no longer search customers' accounts itself if it suspected wrongdoing and would instead refer such matters over to law enforcement. According to Microsoft, Hotmail has 170 million active users. For more information see: EPIC: Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. (Apr. 5, 2014)
  • EPIC, Coalition Urge President Obama to Advance Privacy Bill of Rights: EPIC along with a coalition of over 40 public interest organizations has urged the President to implement the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, a comprehensive framework for privacy protection. The letter comes on the two-year anniversary of the Administration's introduction of the Privacy Bill of Rights, which includes baseline privacy principles, such as individual control and transparency, respect for context and focused collectionm and better access, accuracy, and accountability. The President called the Privacy Bill of Rights a "blueprint for privacy in the information age" and said his Administration "will work to advance these principles and work with Congress to put them into the law." The letter from the organizations states, "We urge you to work with those in Congress who favor the privacy rights of Americans, who support updates to privacy law, and who understand why this issue is so critical to so many Americans. And let those who stand in the way explain to their constituents why they believe that it is not necessary for Congress to do anything further to protect the fundamental rights of Americans." For more information, See EPIC: White House: Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. (Feb. 24, 2014)
  • "I will reform our surveillance programs," President Obama Tells Nation: Stating that "America must move off a permanent war footing," President Obama announced (video) at the State of the Union that "working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs." (50:30) The President continued, (text) "because the vital work of intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated." Citing the need to close the prison in Guantanamo, the President also said "we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action but by remaining true to our constitutional ideals and setting an example for the rest of the world." EPIC and other consumer privacy organizations have urged the President to move forward the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and to support the International Privacy Convention. (Jan. 29, 2014)
  • EPIC's Rotenberg Urges State Attorneys General to Safeguard Consumer Privacy: Speaking at the annual conference of the National Association of Attorneys General, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg said that the state AG's cannot sit on the sidelines as consumers face increasing risks of identity theft, security breaches, and secretive profiling. Rotenberg said the onus shouldn’t be on consumers to keep up with every-changing policy practices. “There is no reason that a customer should have to go back and check their privacy settings when a company changes its business practice." The Attorneys General recently fined Google $7 m for violating state consumer protection laws when the companies vehicles, loaded with Internet packet sniffers, intercepted private residential communications. EPIC has also launched a promotional video "Good to Really Know" with information for consumers about online privacy. For more information, see EPIC: Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and EPIC: Consumer Privacy. (Apr. 16, 2013)
  • EPIC Urges FTC to Develop Meaningful Privacy Protections for Mobile Services: EPIC has submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission concerning "Advertising and Privacy Disclosures in a Digital World". The FTC is currently exploring ways businesses could improve privacy notices for mobile devices. EPIC pointed out that many of the techniques, such as privacy icons, suffer from the same problems as traditional privacy notices. EPIC recommended that the FTC focus instead on substantive privacy protections, such as those found in the federal Privacy Act, sectoral privacy laws, and the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, proposed by the White House. An earlier FTC report called for new privacy legislation and an FTC investigation documented privacy problems with mobile applications for children. For more information, see EPIC: Federal Trade Commission. (Jul. 11, 2012)
  • EPIC Calls on FTC to Develop Substantive Privacy Protections at Workshop on Mobile Advertising: EPIC submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission for the May 30 workshop on mobile advertising disclosures. EPIC recommended that the agency focus on the development of substantive privacy protections, such as the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights announced by the President earlier this year, for mobile services. EPIC also recommended that the workshop address a series of problems with the "notice and consent" approach, as well as the merits of innovative, nonverbal approaches proposed by privacy scholars. The workshop follows an FTC report calling for privacy legislation and an investigation that documented privacy problems with mobile applications for children. For more information, see EPIC: Federal Trade Commission. (May. 11, 2012)

Background

Building on the recommendations of a Green Paper on Privacy and Innovation released by the Department of Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force in December 2010, the Administration released Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Economy. The report contains a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights with the following principles:

  • 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.

In introducing the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, President Obama stated that "even though we live in a world in which we share personal information more freely than in the past, we must reject the conclusion that privacy is an outmoded value. It has been at the heart of our democracy from its inception, and we need it now more than ever.”

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