News & Press: Legal Updates

White House Proposes New Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

Friday, January 27, 2012  
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White House Proposes New Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

Yesterday, the Obama Administration unveiled its "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” as part of a broader plan to improve consumer privacy. Simultaneously, the Digital Advertising Alliance (the "DAA”), a consortium of the major advertising industry trade groups, announced that "it will immediately begin work to add browser-based header signals to the set of tools by which consumers can express their preferences under the DAA Principles.” And in connection with the DAA effort, Google and Mozilla both voiced their support for the White House effort and pledged to build better "Do Not Track” functionality into their browsers to work in tandem with the DAA Principles. The White House endorsed the moves by the DAA, Google and Mozilla and asked that the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) work to complete a Do Not Track standard based on the principles contained in the Privacy Bill of Rights. Because the DAA’s Principles as well as the proposed W3C guidelines provide exemptions for market research from the Do Not Track requirements, the further adoption of the DAA Principles/W3C rules would enable the research industry to continue to track Internet users for research purposes.

The central focus of the Administration’s proposal is the "Consumer Bill of Rights.” The Commerce Department has been tasked by the White House with convening meetings with stakeholders, including companies, privacy and consumer watchdogs, technical experts and international groups, to establish specific practices or codes of conduct that implement the general principles contained in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. Companies could then pledge to follow such codes of conduct, and the FTC would be able to enforce such promises using its existing jurisdiction. The Administration also hopes that Congress will develop legislation based on the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and a national standard for security breach notification. The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights includes the following:

  • Transparency: Consumers have a right to easily understandable information about privacy and security practices.
  • Respect for Context: Consumers have a right to expect that organizations 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 are 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.
While the Administration’s proposal is a further important milestone in the development of an overarching, baseline privacy standard in the United States, the more immediately relevant news FEBRUARY 24, 2012 From CASRO General Counsel was the online advertising industry’s acceptance of a Do Not Track standard. Browser developers and the DAA each already offer different mechanisms for allowing users to opt-out of the tracking of their browsing. Google, Mozilla and Internet Explorer all already offer browser add-ons and similar mechanisms to allow users to block tracking cookies. Likewise the DAA has a cookiebased mechanism to allow users to opt-out from tracking. What is new is the Administration’s endorsement of the DAA’s and W3C’s efforts and the agreement by Google and Mozilla to build-in Do Not Track tools into Chrome and Firefox respectively.

While both the DAA Principles and W3C proposed guidelines largely focus on allowing users to opt-out of tracking for behavioral advertising, they also each include exemptions for other purposes, including law enforcement, operational purposes and market research/product development. The DAA Principles, for example, define "market research” as the analysis of: market segmentation or trends; consumer preferences and behaviors; research about consumers, products, or services; or the effectiveness of marketing or advertising. A key characteristic of market research is that the data is not re-identified to market directly back to, or otherwise re-contact a specific computer or device.” While certain Do Not Track mechanisms may still seek to block tracking for market research purposes, such as Internet Explorer’s existing tool, the coalescence around the DAA Principles and W3C guidelines appears to be a very positive development for the research industry in its efforts to continue to help companies and others understand how consumers use the Internet. CASRO has been extensively involved in the development of the W3C proposed guidelines and will continue its efforts to insure that research is appropriately protected in this connection.


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