The White House Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

In today’s networked and computer-pervasive world, data is being generated, collected and shared at a rate unimaginable just a couple of decades ago. Each swipe of your credit card, each purchase online leaves a paperless trail.

Together, the sum of individual transactions enables companies and other interested parties to generate an -often enough quite scarily detailed- profile of you. The New York Times reports on how the retailer Target found out that a teenage girl living with her family was pregnant before her own parents did.

However, now there are increasingly strong calls for safeguards. People want to know what is being done with their personal data.

On February 23, 2012, the White House unveiled plans for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights that would establish a framework for internet companies on how to handle consumers’ personal data. Specifically, it provides for:

  • 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.

It is a very interesting plan with excellent ideas, even if it is apparently only targeted at internet companies. Brick and mortar businesses would be subject to different legislation.

It should be noted that in the United States, the right to privacy has so far been understood to be more a right to solitude, as set forth in the seminal article “The Right to Privacy” by future-Justices Warren and Brandeis in 1890.

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Best regards
und viele Grüße aus Charlotte
Reinhard von Hennigs