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White House releases internet privacy 'bill of rights'

2/24/2012

The Obama administration rolled out a "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights" on February 23, outlining proposed best practices for assuring user privacy is respected by companies operating via the internet.

The White House stated that the principles described in the consumer privacy document should serve as the basis for privacy laws, and President Barack Obama intends to partner with Congress to enact this legislation.

In the near-term, the U.S. Commerce Department will bring together stakeholders who will use the bill of rights as a guide to draft industry-wide codes of conduct enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission.

The bill of rights is likely to impact how companies draft and present terms of use and privacy policy documents. The privacy document stressed that companies should provide clear, comprehensible explanations of "what personal data they collect, why they need the data, how they will use it, when they will delete the data or de-identify it from consumers, and whether and for what purposes they may share personal data with third parties."

The document was drawn up following a number of controversial instances of companies collecting personal data. On the same day the bill of rights was unveiled, law firms on both the east and west coast jointly filed a lawsuit alleging Facebook tracks its users internet browsing habits even when they are not using the social media site, in violation of its privacy policy.