White House Releases Privacy Report and Calls For a Consumer Bill of Rights

Earlier today, Secretary of Commerce John Bryson and Federal Trade Commission Chairman John Liebowitz outlined the Obama administration’s strategy for ensuring “consumers’ trust in the technologies and companies that drive the digital economy.” On the heels of their announcement, and although it is dated January 2012, the Department of Commerce released a long-awaited report entitled “Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World, A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy,” the administration’s roadmap for privacy legislation and regulation in the years ahead.

The announcement and privacy blueprint envisions a comprehensive and integrated framework for data protection, rather than the current sector-patchwork-quilt approach, and is comprised of four key pillars: (1) a consumer privacy bill of rights; (2) a multi-stakeholder process and approach dealing with how such a bill of rights would apply in a business context; (3) more effective enforcement; and (4) greater commitment to harmonization and cooperation in the international community.

The Report outlines the seven principles of its proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and, although calling for legislation and regulation to codify and memorialize these rights, also sets out consumer privacy standards that companies are asked to immediately and voluntarily adopt in a cooperative public-private partnership. These seven principles are:

  1. Individual Control Through Choice
  2. Greater Transparency
  3. Respect for Context
  4. Secure Handling
  5. Access & Correction Rights
  6. Focused Collection
  7. Accountability

The Report notes that a company’s adherence to the voluntary codes will be viewed favorably by the FTC in any investigation or enforcement action for unfair and deceptive trade practices. By implication, a company that does not adopt and follow these principles might be used as evidence of a violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, even if federal legislation is not passed on the subject. The FTC is expected to soon release its Final Staff Report on Consumer Privacy that will be consistent with the Obama administration’s proposed Framework Report. The report reinforces the administration’s commitment to international harmonization, and also touches upon the role state attorneys general in the United States can play. While we are still reviewing the details – and more will likely be forthcoming from the administration in the weeks and months ahead – Legal Bytes will keep you on top of these developments as they arise.

You can read the entire report right here: Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World, A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy.

These are developments that affect all businesses, domestic and multi-national, global and local, consumers and regulators. The complexity and challenges of compliance should not be underestimated, nor should the administration’s commitment to follow the roadmap outlined. Rimon has teams of lawyers who have experience and follow developments in privacy and data protection, from prevention and policy to compliance and implementation. If you want to know more, need counsel, need help navigating, or if you require legal representation in this or any other area, feel free to call me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work.