The Obama administration is laying out a voluntary list of guidelines for Internet companies in an attempt to protect consumers’ privacy while they’re cruising around the Web. But before you get too excited, this online privacy bill of rights is just a polite suggestion, and not an actual piece of legislation.
CNNMoney says the rules lay out how Internet businesses like Google and Facebook should treat consumers’ data and manage interactions. Its big-ticket items are focused on transparency, security and user control of their data. In fact, Google has already announced it will embed a “do-not-track” button in its browser for just those reasons.
However, the bill of rights is pretty darn vague at the same time, with bits like “Companies should offer consumers clear and simple choices, presented at times and in ways that enable consumers to make meaningful decisions.”
Oh, okay so… we get choices and then we make decisions? How are they meaningful? Do they have to be meaningful or can they be pointless and silly?
Basically, although it’s voluntary, the White House thinks companies will sign up to show they’re going to play nice. The hope seems to be that this will turn into an actual piece of legislation in the future, so might as well get those Internet kingpins onboard as soon as possible.
“It’s not the end, it may not be the beginning of the end, but it’s a very important step forward,” CNN cites Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission as saying on a conference call with the media.
Ellen Bloom, Senior Director of Federal Policy for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, weighed in on the bill of rights today.
“It’s important to encourage a robust and vibrant Internet economy. However, if we want to ensure that the Internet economy continues to be strong and vital, consumers need to be able to trust that the information collected about them will not be misused. Today’s announcement sets the stage for that to begin to happen,” she said.