In response to a discussion draft of a new privacy bill now under consideration by the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, ten privacy and consumer groups today called for stronger measures to protect consumer privacy both online and off.
The organizations including the Consumer Federation of America, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Consumer Watchdog, World Privacy Forum, Consumer Action, USPIRG, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, Privacy Lives, and the Center for Digital Democracy, raised their concerns in a letter to Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher and Ranking Member Cliff Stearns.
The groups said in a letter that because consumers increasingly rely on the Internet and other digital services for a variety of transactions involving sensitive personal data, that the draft privacy bill needs to be strengthened.
The groups recommended the following:
*The bill should incorporate the Fair Information Practice Principles that have long served as the bedrock of consumer privacy protection in the U.S., including the principle of not collecting more data than is necessary for the stated purposes, limits on how long data should be retained, and a right to access and correct one's data.
*The bill's definitions of what constitutes "sensitive information" need to be expanded; for instance, to include health-related information beyond just "medical records."
*The bill should require strict "opt-in" procedures for the collection and use of covered data and should prohibit the collection and use of any sensitive information except for the transactions for which consumers provided it.
"Consumers online are being stealthily tracked, profiled and targeted by marketers - who are able to obtain personal information regarding their finances, health, ethnicity, and their families," said Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy.
"The public should not be placed at risk as they grow to rely on the Internet and mobile phones when making purchases and searching for information. Reps. Boucher and Stearns have launched an important debate that must lead to real privacy safeguards for consumers. Both political parties should work together to revise this proposal and enact landmark 21st Century consumer protection legislation."