The White House Proposes New Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights


On February 23, 2012, the White House issued a proposal to adopt a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. The new proposal is part of the Administration’s efforts to adopt a comprehensive consumer data privacy framework that applies to all personal data, defined as any data that can be linked to a specific individual or device. The Administration’s efforts are also intended to bring about conformity with the privacy principles that have become the norm in other countries such as in Europe, thereby increasing interoperability between the U.S. privacy framework and that which has arisen in the rest of the world.

For now, the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights is still a blueprint and does not include enforceable rules, but the Administration is pursuing implementation through legislation and a multistakeholder rule-making process.

The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights adopts seven general principles as a guide for future rule-making and legislation:

1)      Individual Control. Companies should present consumers with clear choices about personal data collection, use, and disclosure, including the ability to withdraw or to limit consent. The Administration has already begun action on this principle. Internet and online advertising companies including Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL, in response to calls from the Administration and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), have committed to use Do Not Track technology from the World Wide Web Consortium in most major web browsers. 

2)      Transparency. Companies should clearly disclose to consumers the scope of information collected, how it is used, when it is deleted, and whether it is shared with third parties.

3)      Context. The use and disclosure of personal data should be commensurate with the relationship between company and consumer, as well as with the age and sophistication of the consumer.

4)      Security. Companies should maintain safeguards to control loss, unauthorized access, and improper disclosure of consumer data.

5)      Access and Accuracy. Companies should provide consumers with reasonable access to their personal data as well as the ability to correct data, request its deletion, or limit its use. 

6)      Focused Collection. Related to the context principle, companies should collect only as much personal data as needed to further contextually appropriate purposes. Once data is no longer needed, it should be deleted or de-identified.

7)      Accountability. Companies should conduct full audits where appropriate, and companies that disclose personal data to third parties should ensure the recipients are under enforceable obligations to adhere to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

In the coming months, the Administration envisions a multistakeholder rule-making process convened by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The process would involve companies, industry groups, privacy advocates, consumer groups, academics, international partners, State Attorneys General, and other relevant groups in drafting a set of rules based on the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. Companies would then voluntarily commit to follow the rules, and those commitments would become enforceable by the FTC.

The Administration is also encouraging Congress to pass legislation implementing the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and granting the FTC and State Attorneys General authority to directly enforce the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

As these implementation efforts continue, watch this blog for further developments.

This blog post was written by David Munkittrick, an associate in our Litigation Department.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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