White House Seeks an ‘Online Bill of Rights’

The Obama Administration is calling on Congress to enact what’s being dubbed the “Online Bill of Rights” – federal legislation that would engender sweeping new online privacy rights to protect consumers.

Addressing the issue with a Senate committee Wednesday, White House officials want the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the legislation if and when its enacted.

Speaking for the Obama Administration, Lawrence Strickling of the US Commerce Department stated that the White House “recommends that legislation set forth baseline consumer data privacy protections – that is a consumer ‘privacy bill of rights.’”

“Legislation should provide the FTC with the authority to enforce any baseline protections,” Strickling advised the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “Legislation should create a framework that provides incentives for the development of codes of conduct, as well as continued innovation around privacy protection.”

Long, fine-print privacy policies were cited as key examples of what the Obama Administration would like to see revised.

“These lengthy, dense and legalistic documents do not appear to be effective in informing consumers of their online privacy choices,” Strickling added. “Surveys show that most Americans incorrectly believe that a website that has an online privacy policy is prohibited from selling personal information it collects from customers. In addition, many consumers believe that having a privacy policy guarantees strong privacy rights, which is not necessarily the case.”