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Groups Renew Skirmish on Privacy Bill of Rights

13 Aug, 2014 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – Several privacy advocate groups are reissuing a call for a privacy “bill of rights” that could hamper marketers’ ability to collect or use data about consumers.

Last week, the groups wrote in a letter to the U.S. Commerce Department: “Industry self-regulation is not enough, and has failed to inform or protect consumers.” Letter signatories included the ACLU, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, Common Sense Media and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

The letter came in response to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) request for opinions about how to reconcile privacy principles with the benefits of data collection.

The NTIA said in 2012 it supported a privacy “bill of rights” that would include fair information practices – which limit companies’ ability to amass data. But more recently, the agency asked for input about whether that proposal should be revised “to accommodate the benefits of Big Data.”

The privacy advocates want the White House to endorse the view that consumers can control data about them – whether it’s collected directly from them or from other sources, including public records. “Even public records contain sensitive personal information, and when they are collected and indexed by private firms, individuals should retain control over their data,” the groups say.

The privacy groups also want the Obama Administration to craft additional protections for “sensitive” data – including financial information, health, race and age – in an attempt to discourage illegal discrimination.

“Predictive data, data analytics and profiling offer ample opportunity for the existence of hidden proxies for illegal discrimination and other harmful differential treatment,” they write. “The privacy bill must clearly delineate boundaries of acceptable data use for sensitive data.”

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) filed its own comments last week opposing new regulations and arguing that consumers don’t face the kind of potential dangers that would justify new regulations.

The IAB writes: “Existing laws already address targeted areas where misuse of data could cause identifiable harms to consumers. The IAB is concerned that legislating new use limitations based on vague concepts or theoretical potential harms would create uncertainty and compliance costs for businesses and would unnecessarily restrict the free flow of data. In particular, the use and sharing of data for advertising purposes is beneficial for consumers and the economy, and is consistent with consumers’ reasonable expectations regarding the use of their data.”

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