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GAO: ‘Strengthen Current Consumer Privacy’

27 Nov, 2013 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – The Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases a report that says a federal law is needed for the collection, use and sale of personal information by companies.

A portion of the report reads: "Congress should consider strengthening the current consumer privacy framework to reflect the effects of changes in technology and the marketplace, particularly in relation to consumer data used for marketing purposes."

The report suggests lawmakers should give consumers more data about what information is held about them, who holds it, and the ability to access, correct and control that information. The GAO also recommends a more comprehensive privacy law to address privacy controls for new technologies, including online tracking and mobile.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who has been investigating privacy practices of data brokers, requested the report.

Late this summer, the GAO reviewed current laws, regulations and enforcement actions and talked to representatives from government, consumer and privacy groups, trade associations and data broker companies. Its conclusion mirrors 2012 reports from the Commerce Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that called for a consumer privacy bill of rights.

The report concludes that self-regulation from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and the Digital Advertising Alliance, "had not gone far enough."

To fight off potential legislation, the DMA launched the Data-Driven Marketing Institute and recently released a study quantifying data marketing's $156 billion contribution to the economy. 

Part of the DMA’s response to the GAO report reads: "While we do not share the GAO's opinion ... DMA was pleased to see that the report recognizes the important economic benefits that derive from the responsible use of consumer data, and the challenges involved in providing proper privacy safeguards without negatively impacting the benefits that consumers, businesses and society enjoy when innovation is fueled by the responsible sharing of data."

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