In a White House press conference today, President Obama introduced a report entitled Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy, which calls for an online privacy Bill of Rights for consumers:
“American consumers can’t wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online,” said President Obama. “As the Internet evolves, consumer trust is essential for the continued growth of the digital economy. That’s why an online privacy Bill of Rights is so important.”
Under this proposal, a baseline set of privacy standards will be set around seven core principles: individual control, transparency, respect for context, security, access and accuracy, focused collection, and accountability. The Department of Commerce will take the lead in further defining best practices and, most importantly, in leading efforts to bring stakeholders to the table to negotiate rules that make sense.
While previous administrations have appoitned privacy officers and commented on emerging privacy and security issues, today's announcement is a bold move primarily because the White House rolled it out in the middle of roiling scandals over intrusive tracking behavior by players like Google, Facebook and Apple.
This proposal sets an important stake in the ground, but what impact it will have in the long run remains to be seen. The White House proposal suggests industry-led, voluntary measures at first, with enforceable measures kicking in later, however such measures will inevitably require legislative and regulatory enablement to have real power. Given the current mood in Washington, and during this election year, it is unlikely that any significant privacy bills will make it to the desk of President Obama any time soon.