White House, Web Giants Address Consumer Privacy Online

Feb 24, 2012

Recent revelations that Google, Facebook and potentially many other sites have found ways around web browser security to track consumers has drawn greater attention to consumer privacy online.

Yesterday, President Obama and his administration unveiled the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, which looks to protect the unauthorized tracking or use of any data related to a specific individual. Consumers, in simple terms, can choose not to be tracked.

In introducing the initiative the President acknowledged that innovation in the marketplace has been driven "by novel uses of personal information," adding, "it is incumbent on us to do what we have done throughout history: apply our timeless privacy values to the new technologies and circumstances of our times."

The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights rests on seven pillars:

  • Individual control – Consumers have the right to control what personal data companies collect and how it is used.
  • Transparency – It shouldn’t involve legal training for consumers to find and understand the privacy practices of companies.
  • Context – Companies that collect and use personal data will do so in ways consistent with how consumers provided the data.
  • Security – Consumers have the right to expect that the use of personal data will be done in ways that do not put them at risk.
  • Access and Accuracy – Companies should make efforts to make sure that personal data is accurate and provide access to consumers to correct data that is inaccurate.
  • Focused Collection – Consumers have the right to expect that collection of their personal data will be limited and restricted by the context of how it was supplied in the first place.
  • Accountability – Companies are responsible for taking all steps necessary to establish systems, train employees and limit the access of third parties to consumers’ personal data. They are responsible both to consumers and enforcement authorities to assure this takes place.

In a related announcement, the Digital Advertising Alliance, which includes AOL, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and others, has committed to use "Do Not Track" technology to make it easier for consumers to limit access to personal data.

In an online poll on The Wall Street Journal site, roughly 93 percent of respondents said they would make use of a "Do Not Track" button if it were available on web browsers.

Discussion Questions: What do you think of how the Digital Advertising Alliance has reacted to consumer privacy concerns? How do you think online marketing and commerce will change for retailers with the addition of a “Do Not Track” button on web browsers?

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7 Comments on "White House, Web Giants Address Consumer Privacy Online"

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Max Goldberg
10 years 3 months ago

The Digital Advertising Alliance acted just before Congress acted for them. It was a wise decision. By acting voluntarily, they avoided legislation and codified penalties. Not all websites will be subscribers to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, just as companies disobey the do not call telephone registry. Consumers deserve the right to digital privacy. This is a step in the right direction.

Mel Kleiman
10 years 3 months ago

It does not matter how online marketers change, what matters is that consumers have the right to control what tracking takes place. I run software on my computer 3 times a week to remove tracking cookies and even when I do a little web surfing over the weekend I will end up with between 125 and 150 cookies on my computer.

Ryan Mathews
10 years 3 months ago

I think it’s a start, but I also believe developers will always be one step ahead of regulators.

Ronnie Perchik
Ronnie Perchik
10 years 3 months ago

Marketers love market research. Millions of dollars in budget are decided upon the research we conduct each year. So naturally, online privacy laws will ultimately yield less information.

The concern is, the great thing about the web as it exists now is that it generates organic market research — you track behavior while the user just goes about his or her day online. With Nielsen ratings, for instance, the person knows their habits are being watched — they’ve opted into it. So will the laws therefore make the output less organic?

We’ll just have to see how many consumers would actually think to press that “do not track” button. In any case, the research you’d collect would be sanctioned. And ethics go a long way.

Steve Montgomery
10 years 3 months ago

Digital privacy is an issue that should have been addressed a long time ago, but consumer awareness of what is being and can be done has reached the tipping point. People have finally realized that mobile apps and internet company’s capabilities are more than Amazon saying if you liked this you probably like this. Most may see that functionality as a benefit not a threat. However, they don’t see accessing your contacts and coping them off your phones to their servers as a good thing. I expect people will begin to opt on the safe side and press the do not track button,

Ralph Jacobson
10 years 3 months ago

Savvy and unscrupulous marketers will continue to find ways to abuse this legislation, however, I do believe it is a step in the right direction.

The interesting news is that regardless of how much a minority of noisy people may complain about privacy issues, the majority of consumers have absolutely no problem with merchants getting personal info to better serve their shopping needs. People share their info all the time with retailers and CPGers alike.

Joe Nassour
Joe Nassour
10 years 3 months ago

As long as a company is using the data to make my experience better and they are not sharing that information with any government agency, I have no problem with that. Privacy is about freedom from government intrusion.

Today, the government can still get access to our information and use it for prosecution.


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