The Obama Administration recently unveiled plans for a consumer privacy “bill of rights” that, at first glance, looks very promising.
The plan would give citizens more control over how their personal information is collected and used by online companies. It also sets standards regarding individual control, transparency, and accountability.
In a nutshell, this plan gives people the ability to opt out of having their personal data collected as well as forcing companies to adhere to clear and accessible privacy policies.
While most Internet companies already have privacy policies, many are so dense and complicated that few of us can read or understand them. And even if we do, most policies do not fully explain how the company uses our consumer data.
User Data For Sale
What most of us probably do not know is that many Internet companies, such as Facebook and Google, generate all their enormous revenue by collecting user data and selling it to advertisers. We don’t know about this because these companies do not make it clear. This new plan aims to change that.
While this plan is voluntary, over 90% of companies who deliver targeted online ads have agreed to comply with the plan’s recommendations. This is a big deal, because web companies have proven time and time again that they cannot be relied upon to police themselves.
Indeed, up until now, most companies do whatever they want until someone slaps their hand.
Facebook and Google have both been accused by the FTC in the past year for improper use of user information. Most recently, Google has announced that users will no longer have the ability to opt of data collection if they want to use Google’s services, such as Gmail and YouTube.
The FTC will have the ability to enforce compliance with these guidelines, which is good news, as guidelines that have no teeth are virtually worthless.
This privacy “bill of rights” is the outcome of several efforts to create and enforce privacy standards over the last few years by advertisers, Internet companies, and software companies.
While this plan is not currently the law of the land, it is encouraging, and a step in the right direction regarding our online privacy.