Consumer groups urge president to follow through on his pledge for privacy protections

McClatchy Washington BureauFebruary 24, 2014 

Two years after President Barack Obama promised to introduce legislation to strengthen privacy protections on the Internet, a coalition of consumer groups and civil rights organizations are urging him to follow through on his promise.

“American consumers can’t wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online,” Obama said on Feb. 23, 2012, when he first proposed his privacy policy.

To mark the anniversary of that proposal, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Digital Democracy and other groups sent a letter to the president on Monday, stating that the need for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights "has never been more urgent."

“Americans today worry about retailers who lose their credit card information, intelligence agencies that gather their phone records, and data brokers that sell their family’s medical information to strangers. Industry ‘self regulation’ has failed and opt-out techniques force consumers to check their privacy settings every time a company changes its business model.”

The key to progress is passage of updated privacy laws by Congress, the letter says.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the administration agrees that legislation is long overdue.

“But we have not waited for Congress to act,” Schultz said in a statement. “That is why we have brought together companies and privacy advocates to develop new enforceable privacy codes of conduct, as we did last year on mobile apps, and are doing this year on facial recognition. We are also looking ahead and asking the tough questions.”

The president asked John Podesta to lead a study of big data and privacy, which is underway now, Schultz said.

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