Apr 122011
 April 12, 2011  Posted by  Laws

Preliminary responses to the Kerry-McCain commercial privacy bill are in, and as I expected, most privacy groups are not endorsing it as proposed.

I still haven’t had a chance to actually read it yet, but Jacqui Cheng of Ars Technica reports:

Not everyone is cheering, though. A coalition of consumer groups—including Consumer Watchdog, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and Privacy Times—said that while they welcome the effort, they cannot yet get behind it. The groups reiterate the need for “Do Not Track” legislation and enforcement, saying the bill relies too much on the “notice and choice” model that already exists at most companies. They also criticize the bill for giving “special interest treatment to Facebook and other social media marketers” by allowing them to continue gathering data without real safeguards, and they especially don’t like that the Department of Commerce—meant to promote the interests of companies, not individuals—has some say in developing the privacy policies.

“Title VII of the act, which appears to usurp the FTC’s traditional lead role in protecting privacy and turn much of its responsibility over to the Commerce Department, is troubling. It is important to note that the Commerce Department—as it should—primarily seeks to promote the interests of business. It is not, nor should it be expected to be, the primary protector of consumers’ interests. Commerce, therefore, must not have the lead role in online privacy. That is a role best left to a new independent Privacy Protection Office and the Federal Trade Commission,” the groups wrote in a letter to the two senators.

“Protecting consumers’ privacy rights should transcend politics and we thank you for exercising leadership and seeking to deal with this challenge in a bipartisan way. But we must also express our concern that your Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act needs to be significantly strengthened if it is to effectively protect consumer privacy rights in today’s digital marketplace.”

Not surprisingly to me, the Center for Democracy & Technology is not on the listed organizations who have not gotten behind the bill. In a series of tweets last month, I disagreed with CDT over any “baseline” bill which they tried to argue was really “comprehensive.” Some of this is tactical, no doubt. But I do not feel disposed to settle for a weak or even bad bill just because maybe it’s all we can get at this time.

So I will go through the bill when time permits and offer my own comments. I realize that I am somewhat of an extremist compared to most folks. That’s fine. I can live with that. What I can’t live with is everyone pretending bad bills are good bills or that they’re serious about putting individuals’ privacy rights over corporate profits and greed. I do not think that we need to continue to kowtow to corporations making billions of dollars in profits each year – including health insurers. That’s bullshit. It’s time to REALLY take back our privacy.

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