White House privacy rights bill is a beginning, not an end

Free at last? Not exactly. A consumer privacy bill of rights is long overdue, but anything real will require Congressional action -- an oxymoron if ever there was one.

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At hastily arranged call-in conference last night, the Obama White House and the FTC announced something privacy advocates have demanded for decades: a declaration that we, the people, own the data that is collected about us.

The announcement was high on lofty goals and short on specifics. That’s fine – being too prescriptive, especially when it comes to technology, can be worse than doing nothing at all. But if anybody thinks this alone will snuff out all the privacy fires currently raging, they’re mistaken.

PCWorld’s John Mello has a good summary of the key bullet points. The big takeaway: Consumers should have a choice over what data is collected about them and how it is used; companies must take responsibility for the security of that data and use it in “reasonable” and expected ways. 

In addition, the leading lights of the ad industry have agreed to honor Do Not Track mechanisms in browsers, should consumers choose to implement them. That would presumably prevent the shenanigans pulled by Google and others to circumvent third-party cookie blocking, not to mention those nasty Flash Cookie Zombies that respawn after users have opted out.

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