White House Consumer Data Privacy Framework is Welcome Step

Washington, DC – Human Rights First today praised the just-released White House Consumer Data Privacy framework as a welcome step toward requiring companies to protect user privacy online. “The stakes are huge – not just for American consumers who use the internet, but for the many human rights and pro-democracy activists who rely on the internet to speak, organize and advocate,” said Human Rights First’s Meg Roggensack. “The rest of the world will look to these principles in framing their own views on online privacy. The Administration and Congress need to ensure that companies implement these principles to ensure maximum protection for the internet’s most vulnerable users.” Among the most notable elements of the framework are the foundational principles of individual control and transparency. Human Rights First has noted that users can’t meaningfully gauge the risks of disclosure unless companies make clear what is being collected and why, how it might be used, and to what extent it might be shared with third parties, and who those third parties are. This means that before collecting any information, companies need to do much more to educate users and to explain to them in clear terms, with examples, how the data they provide might be utilized. As the report recognizes, consumers need to take control but to do so effectively they need both information and tools, before providing personal information. Today’s White House report also recognizes that companies must have procedures in place to protect consumer privacy. It follows that consumers should be empowered with sufficiently detailed and useful information so that they can choose to deal with companies with appropriate privacy protection policies. “The White House report envisions company training, audits and contractual requirements for third parties. In implementing these commitments, companies should communicate clearly and comprehensively to their users the steps they are taking,” Roggensack noted. “This framework marks a new beginning in efforts to promote greater corporate accountability.” For more information or to speak with Roggensack, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at [email protected] or 202-370-3323.

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Published on February 23, 2012

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