Gov’t Debuts Online Privacy Bill of Rights

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – The Commerce Department introduced a new set of policy recommendations Thursday, deemed the Privacy Bill of Rights, which are intended to help protect your privacy online.

As part of its proposal, the Commerce Department recommends that businesses be more transparent when collecting and using personal data from their customers, and will potentially impose limits on how such data is used. In addition, the agency urged the government to create new guidelines for when and how companies must notify consumers about data security breaches.

In order to develop these and other policies, the department proposed the creation of a new federal privacy policy office that would work with the Federal Trade Commission, the White House and other government agencies.

“America needs a robust privacy framework that preserves consumer trust in the evolving Internet economy while ensuring the Web remains a platform for innovation, jobs, and economic growth,” said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in a press release. “Self-regulation without stronger enforcement is not enough. Consumers must trust the Internet in order for businesses to succeed online.”

Earlier this month, the FTC released its own set of proposals, including a suggestion to create a new feature in web browsers that would allow consumers to stop online businesses from tracking their personal data.

While the Commerce Department did not elaborate on this particular suggestion, these back-to-back reports clearly show that the government is eager to nail down a firm set of guidelines, not just to protect consumers but also to ensure best practices from online businesses.

In fact, one of the key suggestions in the Commerce Department’s report is to work with other countries to streamline online privacy laws in order to make it easier and more cost efficient for businesses operating across borders to work with one another. In a sense then, the U.S. is not only pursuing a privacy bill of rights for Americans, but rather a bill of rights that could work universally.

The FTC and the Commerce Department are both seeking public feedback on their proposals through the end of January, before the reports are finalized.

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