We’ve received reports that the United States’ President, Barack Obama, has been discussing three new proposed laws designed to protect Americans’ data that’s being left on smartphones, computers, tablets and other connected devices. The US authorities have been considering how to improve federal laws designed to protect consumers’ privacy and recent media coverage of wide scale hacking attacks that stole massive amounts of credit card data (such as Target, Home Depot) have once again put the issue into limelight. President Obama will give his ideas during a speech at the Federal Trade Commission just before midday, Eastern Time, today.
The first of these three laws is a national standard to compel companies to tell consumers within thirty days of the discovery of a breach that their data has been compromised. This standard would require approval from Congress and may help lawmakers replace the current patchwork of different state regulations. This proposal will also criminalize overseas trade in stolen identities. The second proposition is to resurrect the “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights,” originally created in 2012; President Obama is to ask lawmakers to codify this bill into the law. The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights is designed to help consumers have a say in how companies use “big data” techniques to mine and sell on our digital footprints, which are used by advertisers to target information for us. It sets down consumers’ rights and expectations in areas such as insisting on robust security, accountability and respect for context when data is collected by private organisations. The third piece of proposed legislation is to protect students by banning educational software companies from selling on the data they collect through educational applications to third parties, or for using this information to target advertisements. We also believe President Obama will discuss a new voluntary code of conduct for the utility companies designed to protect consumers’ energy use information.
Online privacy and protection against hacking is making headlines these days and I’m encouraged to see the US President weighing in on such matters, but this may be the start of a long and convoluted process to get these ideas incorporated into US Law. And this is of course just one part of the world. It’s important that the law evolves along with our use of the Internet.