Ideas about Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights


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“Ideas about Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights”

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Governments in the west have long grappled with the notion that privacy should be a right that all citizens should be entitled to. Data privacy, though a concept in its infancy, has crept into the public consciousness very recently. In 2012, the Obama administration attempted to address the topic by publishing The Consumer Privacy Bill of Right, which listed the administration’s position on items such as data opt out options, whether companies must give users information about how they collect and store data, who they give it to, and how privacy agreements should be worded (Gigaom, 2015). In the 24-page document guidelines have been set forth to lay a foundation of what online data privacy should look like.


As Gigaom’s research explains, this includes key words such as clear, transparent, and individual control, with other more specific suggestions like that companies should provide phone numbers where a user could call to find out more about their data. The overall theme of the Privacy Bill of Rights was to see to it that more control over personal data is handed to the users, not the companies. Today, however, there is another administration in office, and personal data privacy is an issue germane not just in the U.S, but also in the EU, and Britain. 2012 is long past, yet some of the issues remain the same. The type of data that a data broker might want to harvest includes age, geolocation, sex, sexual orientation, and pretty much anything else that may be valuable to advertisers. The large companies in question like Facebook, Google, Apple, Samsung, and Amazon, to name a few, use tools that essentially harvest this type of data, which becomes profit when it is sold to data brokers, who then sell it to third parties (Fairclough, 2016). Fairclough also points out that many of these companies have a role in deciding how these types of privacy protections should be regulated and enforced, adding that self-regulation is a key approach and speaks to the validity behind these protections. And yet as the Obama Administration took the first step in addressing some of these very serious concerns, the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights came under attack nonetheless.




Shortly after the Consumer Privacy Bill of right was published, the Federal Trade Commission released a statement commending the Obama Administration for addressing the issue, but added that the documents did not present strong and enforceable protections (Peterson, 2015). Among these criticized stipulations was the subject of privacy policies, as Peterson writes, because what was proposed was that the companies and industries that gather data should produce their own codes of conduct, and present privacy policies to the FTC for approval. These criticisms were not partisan, rather they emanated from other democrats like Rep. Frank Pellone, and Rep Jan Shcakowsky who maintained that the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights simply allowed data collection to be run by the companies that need to be regulated. Plainly stated, the self-regulation that the administration was presenting was not a real solution to many critics. And the evidence of such an approach could be seen in the do not track proposition in the document to which Google, Microsoft, and AOL promised to comply but never did.


The main reason being because there was no real way to enforce the commitment itself (Ferden, 2015).         And though these criticisms are certainly valid, there are those who took the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights as a true roadmap, as opposed to settled gospel. For example, Rep. Tom Wheeler introduced a mandate in 2016 stating that Internet Service Providers (ISP) should have consumer permission first prior to handing personal data to third parties. In response, the new Trump Administration signed a law that stonewalls implementation of data privacy (Romn, 2017). These were privacy policies that the United States had cultivated with partners like the EU, which is why continuing a compare-and-contrast with the Obama Administration v. Trump Administration warrants an overview of the European philosophy on this subject.


EU Relevance         


President Trump has famously stuck by his slogan to keep American first, however in the realm of data privacy and security, the Obama Administration had a more keep American connected typed of mentality. This is evident in the differing way that the two administrations have taken on the task of addressing the data privacy with allies such as the EU. An example is the Presidential Policy Directive No. 28, which directly speaks on the importance of global privacy rights. This was a directive that President Obama and EU collaborated on, as well as the Privacy Shield Agreement, which essentially creates a set of controls for personal data being transferred from the Unites States to the European Union, and vice versa (Margulies, 2017). To put this marriage of ideals into perspective, Fairclough states that the EU has long been a champion of right to privacy, citing the European Convention on Human Rights as an example. This directive expresses the notion that Europeans have right to respect forprivate and family life, and adds that that the United States has a privacy problem compared to the Europeans.        


This gap in idealism may be stretching further apart now that the EU parliament has called on the Trump Administration to reauthorize the Privacy Shield Agreement, and has threatened to suspend the Privacy Shield if the administration does not act by Sept 1, 2018 (Lomas, 2018). The distinction between the two administrations could not be more distinct on the subject of collaboration with the EU. Perhaps the reason why, as Lomas further explains, is the fact the Obama-EU directives includes protection for non-U.S nationals. The lack of the United States compliance, and the alienation of the EU with regard to data privacy may be driving a wedge between alliances, but the fact remains that American still have to address this at home. A Roadmap for the Future In the United States there is a plethora of legal cases where the subject of what should remain personal and private. The right to be forgotten emerges as a valid question in the debate concerning personal data privacy. In 2012, the same year that Obamas Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights was published, the tenth circuit court ruled, in a case against Floyd Mayweather, that posts on social media were not private if they were newsworthy, or serve a public purpose (Gaida, 2018).


Some may still debate that topic, but it is relevant because in discussing the validity of implementation of data privacy, the courts can serve as a proper guide. Though courts interpret the law, rather than create legislation, looking to cases like the Floyd Mayweather case may be a signifier of changes in the Obama era and the Trump era. If the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights was meant to be a roadmap for future legislation, the current administration is on board with that roadmap. In 2017 President Trump signed the Congressional Review Act, which essentially strips away broadband privacy resolutions that the Federal Communications Commission put into place in the fall of 2016 (Stanton, 2017). 


The invalidation of the Obama era broadband privacy law was step further into the dismantling of data privacy by allowing ISP’s to use consumer online activity data as they wish. However, as Stanton explains, supporters of Trump’s actions have argued otherwise, that overthrow of Obama era protections are too invasive, and the FCC and the FTC can still implement privacy protections as directed by the 1934 Communications Act. In terms of validity, the question must be asked, valid to whom? Validity To place the validity of the Obama era privacy regulation vis a vis the Trump era regulation, one must look at the quality of being valid. Validity is not a concrete state of being. President Trump enjoys the support of 44% of registered voters (Todd et al., 2018).


What this means is that almost half of the country is onboard with the way that Trump is legislating. Whether these 44% of supporters have been polled explicitly about data privacy remains to seen, but there may be more partisanship than an actual logical response from many. Expressing validity for those 44% would be vastly different than expressing it for the other 55%. In other words for supporters of the Trump initiatives it may come down to, it’s valid because the president I voted for thinks it’s valid. After all, democracies are based on the chosen candidate taking on the leadership responsibilities, which in this case includes legislating privacy for data collection. In this sense validity is largely determined by the majority”albeit the poll numbers do not reflect it. Be that as it may be, the Trump Presidency has clearly taken a completely opposite path than that of President Obama.




Although the initial response to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, published by the Obama Administration in 2012, was meant to serve as a roadmap for future legislation, it has been made evident that even those in Obama’s own party opposed the fact that it did not go far enough. The concern was that the self-regulating is like asking a fox to self-regulate in a chicken coop. The fact is that personal data is big business. The amount of information that consumers will volunteer on the internet is astounding, but perhaps that’s just in the very fabric of how the internet is designed. Freedom of exchange of ideas, and of personal insights, endless selfies, and photos of what we are eating is creating a treasure trove for third party data brokers.


That is a fact that no one can deny. For the Obama Administration, a step forward in the right direction was crafting guidelines for data privacy, along with our allies with similar interests, was staring the debate itself. Perhaps this may have been the intention of The Consumer Protection Bill of Rights, as well as subsequent legislation. But the reality is that there is a new president now. President Trump is a calculated business man, at least according to his base. His style of legislation is largely based on re-negotiating, deconstructing, and rebuilding. What this means for data privacy is that business as usual is what is truly valid for the foreseeable future.

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Ideas ABout Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. (2019, Jul 26). Retrieved December 4, 2022 , from

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