US unveils blueprint for protecting consumers privacy online

The US government has unveiled a 'Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights' as part of a comprehensive blueprint to improve consumers' privacy protections and ensure that the Internet remains an engine for innovation and economic growth.

The blueprint will guide efforts to give users more control over how their personal information is used on the Internet and to help businesses maintain consumer trust and grow in the rapidly changing digital environment.

The US Commerce Department will begin convening companies, privacy advocates and other stakeholders to develop and implement enforceable privacy policies based on the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

In addition, advertising networks announced that leading Internet companies and online advertising networks are committing to act on 'Do Not Track' technology in most major web browsers to make it easier for users to control online tracking.

Companies that represent the delivery of nearly 90 per cent of online behavioral advertisements, including Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL have agreed to comply when consumers choose to control online tracking.

Companies that make this commitment will be subject to FTC enforcement, the White House said.

"American consumers can't wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online," US President Barack Obama said.

"As the Internet evolves, consumer trust is essential for the continued growth of the digital economy. That's why an online privacy Bill of Rights is so important. For businesses to succeed online, consumers must feel secure," he said.

"By following this blueprint, companies, consumer advocates and policymakers can help protect consumers and ensure the Internet remains a platform for innovation and economic growth," Obama said.

According to the White House, the advertising industry has also committed not to release consumers’ browsing data to companies who might use it for purposes other than advertising, such as employers making hiring decisions or insurers determining coverage.

"It's great to see that companies are stepping up to our challenge to protect privacy so consumers have greater choice and control over how they are tracked online. More needs to be done, but the work they have done so far is very encouraging," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights provides a baseline of clear protections for consumers and greater certainty for businesses -- individual Control; transparency; respect for context; security; access and accuracy; focused collection and accountability.

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