It’s been a busy week for online privacy!
On Thursday, Consumers Union participated in a White House roll-out of a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights,” which sets out general principles about how consumer data should be handled online. The principles focus on granting individuals more control over their privacy online, as well as ensuring that companies are more transparent about what they do with consumer data. Over the next few weeks, the White House will be bringing together industry and consumer groups to develop some rules of the road for the use of consumer data, which will be based on the Bill of Rights. We plan to follow this process very closely and make sure consumers’ voices are heard loud and clear.
In addition to the White House announcement, Google also revealed a plan to finally include a Do Not Track (DNT) tool as part of its Chrome browser by the end of the year. Browser-based DNT tools allow consumers to tell advertisers that they don’t want to be tracked online. Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari have already committed to offering consumers these tools, leaving Google as the last hold out among major browsers. By the end of this year, however, Google will be joining the DNT crowd – and we’re definitely pleased about that.
The FTC also announced that the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), a coalition of the nation’s largest advertisers and media companies, has agreed to honor browser DNT tools. Until now, browsers such as Firefox and Internet Explorers allowed consumers to express their desire not to be tracked online, but few companies had actually agreed to respect those choices. The DAA’s announcement means that when consumers enable the browser DNT tools, DAA advertisers will no longer collect or use their personal information for behavioral advertising purposes. This industry group has also committed to not collecting certain types of sensitive information without consent (for example, social security numbers) and has also said it will not collect or use consumer information for employment eligibility, credit, or insurance purposes – all good things.
These three announcements have made this week a big one for online privacy. While there is much left to do to make sure consumers get more control over how their information is collected and used, these are important steps forward toward achieving that goal.
By Michelle Schaefer and Ioana Rusu