Advocates, IAB Weigh In On Privacy ‘Bill Of Rights’

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A coalition of advocacy groups are reiterating their call for a privacy “bill of rights” that would limit marketers' ability to collect or use data about individuals.

“Industry self-regulation is not enough, and has failed to inform or protect consumers,” the organizations said Tuesday in a letter to the Commerce Department. The letter was signed by the ACLU, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, Common Sense Media, and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

The groups submitted their letter in response to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's request for opinions about how to reconcile privacy principles with the benefits of data collection.

Two years ago, the NTIA said it supported a privacy “bill of rights” that would incorporate fair information practices — which limit companies' ability to amass data. But more recently, the agency asked for input about whether that proposal should be revised “to accommodate the benefits of Big Data.”

The advocacy groups are urging the White House to move forward with a “strong and comprehensive” privacy bill of rights.

Specifically, they want the White House to endorse the view that consumers can control data about them — whether it's collected directly from them or from other sources, including public records. “Even public records contain sensitive personal information, and when they are collected and indexed by private firms, individuals should retain control over their data,” the groups say.

The privacy groups also are asking the Obama Administration to craft additional protections for “sensitive” data — including financial information, health, race and age — in an attempt to discourage illegal discrimination.

“Predictive data, data analytics and profiling offer ample opportunity for the existence of hidden proxies for illegal discrimination and other harmful differential treatment,” they write. “The privacy bill must clearly delineate boundaries of acceptable data use for sensitive data.”

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, which also filed comments today, opposes any new regulations.

“Enacting new legislative mandates related to complex issues such as notice and consumer control, data use limits, de-identification, deletion, or privacy-enhancing technologies would be going in the wrong direction,” the IAB writes.

“Rather than moving toward a prescriptive model of privacy regulation, which has limited companies’ ability to innovate in other countries, the United States should support American businesses and lower trade barriers by promoting the U.S. model of privacy regulation in international forums.”

The industry group argues that consumers don't face the kind of potential dangers that would justify new regulations.

“Existing laws already address targeted areas where misuse of data could cause identifiable harms to consumers. The IAB is concerned that legislating new use limitations based on vague concepts or theoretical potential harms would create uncertainty and compliance costs for businesses and would unnecessarily restrict the free flow of data,” the IAB writes. “In particular, the use and sharing of data for advertising purposes is beneficial for consumers and the economy, and is consistent with consumers’ reasonable expectations regarding the use of their data.”

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