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27th May 2017

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Obama launches online bill of rights

  • The Obama administration has published its own online bill of rights (Photo: The Israel Project)

US President Barack Obama on Thursday (23 February) unveiled a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights aimed at improving data privacy protection on the Internet.

The bill, which forms part of a White House report: 'Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World', would give users more control over how their personal information is obtained and used on the Internet.

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The draft bill’s provisions include giving consumers the right to exercise control over the personal data organisations collect from them and how they use it. It will also offer the right to access and correct personal data and set out limits on the personal data that companies collect and retain, as well as creating a citizens’ right to secure handling of their personal data. Elsewhere, the bill includes a ‘respect for context’ clause, under which organisations would be required to use and collect data only in the context that it was provided.

In a statement accompanying the proposal, President Obama said: “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.”

The proposal from the Obama administration, which comes just weeks after the European Commission put forward revisions to the EU’s Data Protection directive, is a clear sign that the US is moving away from the predominantly self-regulatory approach that it has traditionally taken.

It follows growing public outcry about the misuse of personal data by companies, with the US –regulator the Federal Trade Commission also attacking Google and Facebook in January for breaching data privacy commitments.

Following recent allegations over privacy breaches caused by smartphone and tablet computer applications, Apple, Google and Microsoft were among six technology giants that agreed on Wednesday (22 February) to provide greater privacy disclosures before users download them.

However, although the US Privacy Bill marks a step away from industry self-regulation, it appears to be less radical that the EU Commission’s draft directive, which hopes to establish a new European Data Protection Board to enforce the regime of its digital single market.

The provisions on consumer rights do not include the ‘right to be forgotten’, whereby users can demand that a company show what data it holds on them and also insist that it deletes all copies.

Moreover, with the US Presidential and Congressional elections coming in November, the bill is unlikely to become law during President Obama’s current term.

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