Pending Proposals and Legislation

Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

On February 23, 2012, the Obama administration issued a press release regarding its plan to protect individuals’ privacy rights and how their information is handled. The success of said plan rests on the adoption of a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. Said bill seeks to strengthen the idea that internet users should have the right to control information about themselves. By advancing said principle, it appears that the Obama administration seeks to close the gap between their privacy framework and that of its stronger counterpart, the European Union.

Specifically, the proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights advances the following principles regarding personal data:
- Individuals’ right to control how personal data is collected and used
- Transparency of data collected and processing activities
- Respect for context or purpose for which the data is collected
- Security and confidentiality of data
- Individuals’ right of access to data held and accuracy of the same
- Proportionality of collection
- Accountability of companies that hold data on individuals and their duty of implementing appropriate safeguards

The Obama administration hopes to work in tandem with Congress to implement the principles advanced in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights through the adoption of new privacy laws.

2012 FTC Report on Protecting Consumer Privacy and the Do Not Track Proposal

On March 2012, the FTC issued its report Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change, which sets forth a series of best practices and recommendations for businesses to better protect the privacy of consumers.

Part of the FTC’s report refers to the “Do Not Track Proposal”. Do Not Track is a “plug-in” or “add-on” software that is incorporated to the internet browser to provide it with an additional functionality. Specifically, it is intended to prevent or substantially limit the ability of online advertisers to conduct targeted advertising.

Unsurprisingly, the Do Not Track Proposal is causing heated debates among browsers such as Firefox, Chrome and Google and opposition from businesses, which argue that such restrictions will hamper internet commerce and economic growth. See, for example, Cnet News – Do Not Track Proposal Runs Into More Roadblocks.

In addition, another key proposal outlined in the FTC’s report for protecting consumer privacy is that of encouraging businesses to adopt the principle or concept of “privacy by design”. Said concept originates from the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and professes that privacy protections should be built directly into developed technology, organizational practices and their systems.

As part of the aforementioned report, the FTC hopes to have Congress become more involved and provide its support by enacting legislation which contributes to advance and implement the report’s proposed practices and recommendations. For instance, it has already called upon it to enact legislation regulating data brokers, which tend to collect and sell consumer information. According to the FTC, such legislation should require data brokers’ operations to be more transparent and suggests that it require that they create a centralized website where they provide individuals notice on the type of information collected about themselves and how they collect and use said information.

FTC Privacy Guidelines for Mobile Apps

On February 1, 2013 the FTC issued a non-binding staff report with a series of guidelines and recommendations for the mobile industry on how to safeguard personal information and better inform consumers on data collection and processing practices.

Some of the recommendations are directed towards mobile platforms, application developers and advertising networks, among others, and include, for example: the inclusion of a “do-not-track” feature in software and apps; obligation to obtain express consent from consumers before obtaining access to sensitive information; and the use of icons to depict the transmission of data.