Senate to hold hearing on Obama’s ‘Privacy Bill of Rights’


The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing to examine President Barack Obama’s “Privacy Bill of Rights,” reports The Hill. Obama’s plan, announced by the White House in February, seeks to establish guidelines for legislation to create more robust safeguards for Internet users.

Committee Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said in a statement released to the press that the hearing will take place next Wednesday, May 9.

“The Obama administration and the FTC have recommended that Congress provide consumers with basic privacy protections,” said Rockefeller in a statement. “Unfortunately, consumers are often unable to protect their privacy in a digital environment in which their personal information is increasingly collected and monetized for commercial purposes. At this hearing, I hope to have a robust discussion on how the administration and FTC propose to empower Americans so that they can say if, when and how their information is collected and used.”

The “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” outlines certain principals for private data, including giving users control over what information is collected, and how it is used; a need for clearly written privacy policies; and the ability to access and correct faulty data, among other details.

Read the white paper on the “Privacy Bill of Rights” here: pdf.

Rockefeller has long stood at the forefont of consumer privacy issues. Last year, Rockefeller introduced the Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2011 (S. 913), which sought to impose penalties on companies that continued to collect information about Web users after they hadopted out. The bill is currently in legislative limbo, having not yet passed a committee vote.

Despite the stalling of Rockefeller’s legislation, the Federal Trade Commission has made its own headway on Do-Not-Track. The FTC in March released its “Privacy by Design” report, which urges more Web businesses to adopt Do-Not-Track technology. So far, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, and Mozilla have all agreed to adopt Do-Not-Track.

In addition, the FTC says that it plans to push “targeted legislation” that will require data brokers, companies that package and sell data profile on individuals to whomever is willing to buy, to reveal to users what information they have on them, and who is purchasing that information.

Of course, some of you may have already picked up on the irony of the federal government moving to protect our privacy, while at the same time bills like the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which would supersede all privacy laws and allow business and the federal government to share troves of data with each other, moves through Congress. Ah, don’t you just love the insane, bi-polar nature of our government?