White House unveils "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights"

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The Obama administration released its “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” for Web consumers on Feb. 23, aimed at giving consumers more control over how their personal information is collected and used online. The plan outlines seven principles that will guide the administration's legislation efforts going forward, including consumer control over what personal data companies collect and how they use it and transparency about privacy practices.

While privacy guidelines do not impose any immediate obligations on companies or marketers, the White House announced the completion of an industry agreement on “Do Not Track” technology for behavior-based web advertising.

Major web players Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL have signed the agreement, which will likely lead to the adoption of features allowing consumers to opt out of behavior-based marketing. These companies will be subject to the Federal Trade Commission's oversight and enforcement of the terms.

Interactive Advertising Bureau president-CEO Randall Rothenberg endorsed the White House move. “A home-grown industry, digital advertising puts more than 3 million Americans to work and generates $300 billion of economic activity in the U.S. alone," Rothenberg told Direct Marketing News. "Today's announcement helps find the appropriate balance between advancing consumer privacy and creating economic growth. IAB believes these are complementary goals, and we are committed to growing self regulation in the future to make consumer choice easier online and in the mobile environment."

Google has publically embraced the White House's new principles. "We're pleased to join a broad industry agreement to respect the ‘Do Not Track' header in a consistent and meaningful way that offers users choice and clearly explained browser controls,” Susan Wojcicki, Google's SVP of advertising said in a statement.

The announcement comes shortly after Google came under criticism for tracking user data through their iPhones, and after its announcement of a simplified new privacy policy across more than 60 of its web services. Since then,

Last year, several bills were introduced to protect consumers' online privacy with a Do Not Track mechanism, but did not pass.
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