President Takes New Aim at Online Privacy, Security

At the Federal Trade Commission offices in Washington Monday, President Obama discussed new privacy protection proposals he plans to make part of his State of the Union message, including enshrining the privacy bill of rights voluntary proposal in law.

The White House billed it as the next steps in a comprehensive approach to online privacy and security, pointing to a study that showed that 9 of 10 Americans feel they have lost control of their personal information, which could discourage them from taking advantage of technological innovation and adversely impact the economy, the White House says.

It also came in the wake of the Sony hack that exposed a wealth of employee's personal data. "[A]s we’ve all been reminded over the past year, including the hack of Sony, this extraordinary interconnection creates enormous opportunities, but also creates enormous vulnerabilities for us as a nation and for our economy, and for individual families," the President said at the FTC.  

In an email to reporters, the White House outlined the steps, some of which will need help from the Republican-controlled Congress:

The Administration will, within 45 days, release a revised legislative proposal for making its 2012 privacy Bill of Rights the new law of the land. The Commerce Department, which has been working with industry and public interest groups on voluntary codes of conduct related to various privacy issues—to mixed reviews of the success of those efforts—has completed its vetting of revised draft legislation that would turn those principles into laws.

Proposing the Personal Data Notification & Protection Act, legislation that would "clarify and strengthen" notification obligations for hacks of customers' personal information, including requiring breach notification within 30 days.

To help identify and better prevent identify theft, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America will make credit scores available for free to consumer credit card customers. "Over half of all adult Americans with credit scores will now have access to this tool to help spot identity theft, through their banks, card issuers, or lenders," the White House said.

Proposing the Student Digital Privacy Act, which would ensure that data collected for educational purposes is only used for those purposes. The law is based on a similar California statute and building on a Big Data report released by the White House earlier this year.

The President also endorsed a pledge, led by the Future of Privacy Forum and the Softeware & Information Industry Association and committed to by 75 companies, "to provide parents, teachers, and kids themselves with important protections against misuse of their data."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.