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President Obama Intros Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

The White House is finally addressing the online rights of U.S. citizens by proposing an internet-focused Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to Congress (PDF).

If passed, this legislation will allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorney generals to support and enforce the bill's framework. This bill will provide consumers with a say on how their personal information (data) is collected and used online while businesses will be required to be transparent, relaying data usage practices while also securing people's data in the process.

"This initiative seeks to protect all Americans from having their information misused by giving users new legal and technical tools to safeguard their privacy," the White House stated on Thursday. "The blueprint will guide efforts to protect privacy and assure continued innovation in the Internet economy by providing flexible implementation mechanisms to ensure privacy rules keep up with ever-changing technologies."

Essentially the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, which mostly includes Do Not Track technology for behavior-based web advertising, is broken down into seven specific consumer rights:

(1) Individual Control -- Consumers have a right to exercise control over what personal data companies collect from them and how they use it.

(2) Transparency -- Consumers have a right to easily understandable and accessible information about privacy and security practices.

(3) Respect for Context -- Consumers have a right to expect that companies will collect, use, and disclose personal data in ways that are consistent with the context in which consumers provide the data.

(4) Security -- Consumers have a right to secure and responsible handling of personal data.

(5) Access and Accuracy -- Consumers have a right to access and correct personal data in usable formats, in a manner that is appropriate to the sensitivity of the data and the risk of adverse consequences to consumers if the data is inaccurate.

(6) Focused Collection -- Consumers have a right to reasonable limits on the personal data that companies collect and retain.

(7) Accountability -- Consumers have a right to have personal data handled by companies with appropriate measures in place to assure they adhere to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

"As a world leader in the Internet marketplace, the Administration believes the United States has a special responsibility to develop privacy practices that meet global standards and establish effective online consumer protection," the White House added.

Justin Brookman, the director for the non-profit civil liberties group Center for Democracy and Technology's Project on Consumer Privacy, said the White House has been working on this bill for a couple of years.

"The biggest change is that they recognize that there should be legislation to make this happen, and that was our main criticism of the proposal before--that there may not be enough stick to get industry to the table without a law to make them follow certain rules."

A Do Not Track agreement has already been signed by AOL, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo who, claims the government, accounts for 90-percent of behavior-based advertisement. This agreement essentially allows users to opt out of allowing their Internet surfing habits to be monitored and recorded by web browsers (cookies, sites visited etc). But even though the four companies entered into the agreement voluntarily, the FTC will still keep a close eye on their activities.

The new bill of rights arrives as wide-sweeping changes to Google's privacy policy are raising a big red flag with regulators. But on Thursday Google agreed to allow a "do-not-track" button to be embedded in its Chrome web browser, allowing users to restrict the amount of data that can be collected about their browsing habits.

"We're pleased to join a broad industry agreement to respect the 'do-not-track' header in a consistent and meaningful way that offers users choice and clearly explained browser controls," Google Senior Vice President of Advertising Susan Wojcicki said in a statement.