US Considering Online Privacy “Bill of Rights”

The US Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force has proposed a set of principles that collectively form the basis of what could be dubbed an online privacy “Bill of Rights” for US consumers. The proposed policies in the DoC’s “green paper” aim to “improve the state of affairs domestically and advance interoperability among different privacy regimes around the world so that, globally, Internet services can continue to flourish.” The DoC also proposes the creation of a “Privacy Policy Office” that would work with the Federal Trade Commission and other government agencies to create a “voluntary but enforceable codes of conduct” for companies storing sensitive consumer data.

To date, the US has lagged behind Canada, the EU and other jurisdictions in terms of legislative efforts to protect consumers’ online data. While Canada has strong consumer protection through the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and the EU provides even stronger protections via the EU’s Data Protection Directive, US lawmakers have essentially left companies to regulate themselves.

Introducing an online privacy “Bill of Rights” would be a major step forward for the US, and would do much to bridge the substantial gap that exists between the US and some of its most important international trade partners.

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