Obama publishes new online privacy plan

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The White House has unveiled a new framework for online privacy, tightening up the protection of personal data.

The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights has already received support from Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, RIM and HP. The companies have pledged to provide more information on how data will be gathered and used before an app is downloaded.

"American consumers can’t wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online. 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," said President Barack Obama, announcing the initiative. 

"For businesses to succeed online, consumers must feel secure. By following this blueprint, companies, consumer advocates and policymakers can help protect consumers and ensure the internet remains a platform for innovation and economic growth."

The bill gives consumers the right to easily understandable information about privacy practices, and to access and correct that data in a usable format.

Companies are required to place reasonable limits on the amount and type of data that they collect, use it in appropriate ways, and handle it securely and accountably.

Over the next few weeks, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will discuss exactly how to implement these guidelines with  companies, privacy and consumer advocates, technical experts, international partners and academics.

"The internet has become an engine of innovation, business growth, and job creation, so we need a strong foundation of clear protections for consumers, and a set of basic principles to help businesses guide their privacy and policy decisions," says Commerce Secretary John Bryson.  "This privacy blueprint will do just that."

What the new guidelines don't include, notably, is a full Do Not Track mechanism, allowing users to opt out altogether of letting advertisers track their online activities. While privacy campaigners will welcome the new guidelines, they're unlikely to be completely satisfied.