Ten Consumer Advocate Groups Ask Congress to Strengthen Privacy Bill

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Will justice be served?

Ten privacy and consumer organizations have called on the House
Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, for
stronger provisions to protect consumer privacy both online and off.

groups are urging the House Subcommittee to expand the definition of
“sensitive information,” incorporate fair information practices and
require opt-in procedures for data collection.

“The problem is
that the bill relies too much on the idea of ‘notice and consent,’ which
really hasn’t worked,” said John M. Simpson, a consumer advocate at
Consumer Watchdog, Washington. “It also pre-empts stronger state laws
and does not allow private action suits.  These provisions are extremely
unfriendly for consumers.

“This bill pretty much allows online
businesses to continue the intrusive business practices now in effect,”
he said. “We need legislation that gives consumers control of their
personal data and how it is used. If consumers had faith that they had
control of their data, it would instill greater trust in online
businesses to the ultimate benefit of the Internet economy.”

groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, Electronic
Frontier Foundation, Consumer Watchdog, World Privacy Forum, Consumer
Action, USPIRG, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, Privacy
Lives, and the Center for Digital Democracy, raised their concerns in a
letter to Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher and Ranking Member Cliff
Click here
to read the entire letter

The groups’ letter made a
number of recommendations for strengthening the draft privacy bill,
including the following items:

• The bill should incorporate the
Fair Information Practice Principles that have long served as the
bedrock of consumer privacy protection in the U.S., including the
principle of not collecting more data than is necessary for the stated
purposes, limits on how long data should be retained, and a right to
access and correct one’s data.

• The bill’s definitions of what
constitutes “sensitive information” need to be expanded; for instance,
to include health-related information beyond just “medical records.”

The bill should require strict “opt-in” procedures for the collection
and use of covered data and should prohibit the collection and use of
any sensitive information except for the transactions for which
consumers provided it.

“Congress needs to pass legislation that
protects consumers when they are targeted for location and mobile
advertising,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for
Digital Democracy, Washington.

“Consumer and privacy groups want
Reps. Boucher and Stearns to add new provisions that truly protect
consumer privacy – ensuring they can meaningfully opt-in,” he said.

new privacy law should also ensure that only the minimum amount of data
is collected from users, that it will become quickly anonymized, and
that consumers have access to the data.”

Senior Editor Giselle
Tsirulnik covers advertising, messaging, legal/privacy and database/CRM.
Reach her at [email protected].

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdoghttps://consumerwatchdog.org
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