Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Privacy advocates find Obama proposal lacking

Grant Gross | March 4, 2015
A consumer privacy proposal from U.S. President Barack Obama's administration gives people too little control over their personal data and companies too much latitude to use that information, a coalition of 14 privacy and digital rights groups said.

But the proposal "falls short" of the goal of creating a powerful framework to protect personal privacy, the privacy groups said in their letter. Grant called the consumer protections in the proposal "squishy."

The Obama proposal includes "broad exceptions" from privacy protections for large categories of personal information, including business records, cyberthreat indicators and data "generally available to the public," the privacy groups noted. The exception on business records creates concerns about data collection by the U.S. National Security Agency, which has targeted business records in some of its surveillance programs, critics said.

The White House plan also doesn't give consumers the ability to correct most records held by data brokers, the groups said. The proposal would require companies to provide consumers a means to dispute and correct the accuracy of personal data, but the mechanism for disputing or correcting information isn't specified, but instead "shall be reasonable and appropriate for the privacy risks and the risk of an adverse action against an individual," according to the text.

The provision for consumers to access their records from online companies and data brokers was "deliberately written — I believe by industry — to make it difficult for most consumers to access and correct their file," Chester said. "It's just another example of why this privacy plan ... is a love letter to the data lobby."

While the privacy groups criticized the proposal as offering weak protections for consumers, some business groups said the plan would create too many regulations for businesses.

Several existing laws already provide strong privacy protections to consumers, said the Association of National Advertisers, a trade group. The proposal "unfortunately is a major step in the wrong direction," ANA group executive vice president Dan Jaffe wrote in a blog post. "It will divert attention and energy from critical data security legislation and will not materially aid the privacy debate."

The proposal, coupled with the Obama administration's support of new net neutrality rules, amounts to an attack on the open Internet, added TechFreedom, a free market think tank. The proposal would "fundamentally change the way Internet businesses work," Berin Szoka, the think tank's president, said by email.

The proposal would have no impact on ongoing government surveillance programs, Szoka added. "It takes real chutzpah for the White House to talk about a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights when the real Bill of Rights has never been more under siege — and this administration has done precious little to defend them," he said.

 

Previous Page  1  2 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.