More Than 30 Consumer Groups Urge President To Put Privacy Bill of Rights Into Law

Americans cherish their privacy, but as headline after headline brings alarming news of data breaches, governmental snooping, and data mining, it becomes evident that something needs to be done. That’s why more than 30 civil liberties and consumer advocacy organizations have written President Obama urging him to push for legislation that would make new consumer privacy protections law.

The letter [PDF] marks the second anniversary of the President’s introduction of the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, which laid the framework for privacy protections for Americans. However, a lack of action and the failure of industry self-regulation has only continued to hurt consumers.

“Never has the need to update the privacy laws of the United States been more urgent,” the letter, penned by groups such as the Americans Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and our own co-workers Consumers Union, says.

The groups cite a number of recent high-profile events, including massive data breaches, the increase in government agencies seeking to gather consumer phone records and data brokers selling consumer’s personal information, to illustrate the urgent need for privacy laws.

“The key to progress is the enactment by Congress of this important privacy framework,” the letter said. “Only enforceable privacy protections create meaningful safeguards.”

To create better protections for consumers the groups urge the President to work with those in Congress who favor the privacy rights of Americans to “establish baseline safeguards for the development of innovated services that take advantage of technology while safeguarding privacy.”

Privacy has been at the forefront of issues for both consumers and corporations in recent months.

Perhaps the biggest consumer privacy issues began in January when Target announced that more than 110 million consumers’ credit card information was exposed during a mega-data breach. That breach was soon followed by a number of hacking announcements from retailers such as Neiman Marcus and craft store Michaels.

Retail wasn’t the only industry to suffer breaches of consumer information. Internet-based programs such as Kickstarter, Tinder, Yahoo and SnapChat each faced hacks where consumer’s passwords and other information were vulnerable.

In January, the FTC announced that a Calif.-based GMR Transcription Services, Inc., would settle charges of exposing consumers’ medical transcripts for the whole world to see.

In early February, a large coalition of internet companies and advocacy groups declared Feb. 11 “The Day We Fight Back” against mass surveillance. The coalition urged citizens to contact their legislators to ask for Congressional intervention on such programs.

The call to fight back came just a week before AT&T announced that it had received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders for 35,000 accounts.