Jan 12 2015

President Obama Unveils Steps to Boost Consumer Protections and Digital Privacy

The administration will release legislative proposals aimed at standardizing data-breach notification laws and protecting consumer privacy.

On Monday, President Barack Obama detailed several new measures for enhancing consumers’ online privacy and combating identity theft.

As part of the Obama administration’s ongoing effort to strengthen the nation’s cyberdefenses, the president announced a new legislative proposal that would create a national standard requiring companies to notify consumers of a breach within 30 days.

“Right now, almost every state has a different law on this, and it’s confusing for consumers and it’s confusing for companies — and it’s costly, too, to have to comply to this patchwork of laws,” Obama said during his speech at the Federal Trade Commission. “Sometimes, folks don’t even find out their credit card information has been stolen until they see charges on their bill, and then it’s too late.”

Several financial institutions, including Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, join a growing number of firms that have agreed to give consumer card customers their credit scores for free.

The president’s speech comes in the wake of growing cyberthreats against government agencies, individuals and companies, including the devastating hack of Sony that the federal government has linked to North Korea. Within hours of the president’s speech, several news outlets reported that the U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts had been hacked.

On Tuesday, the president will speak at the Department of Homeland Security about the government and the private sector working together to better defend cyberspace. Cybersecurity will also be an important topic in the president’s upcoming State of the Union speech on Jan. 20.

The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

In February, the administration will release a revised legislative proposal aimed at strengthening consumers’ digital privacy. President Obama released the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights in February 2012, calling it “a blueprint for privacy in the information age.” The framework offers guidance on what rights consumers should have and what they should expect from companies that handle consumers’ personal information. One of those rights is individual control, or a person’s right to exercise control over what data companies collect and how they use it.

At the time, the president vowed to work with Congress to make the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights law. Nearly three years have passed, and that hasn’t happened. But public outcry for greater protection of personal data has put pressure on the administration to make privacy legislation a top priority.

In a fact sheet detailing the next steps, the White House called on Congress to get on board and noted that the Commerce Department has completed a public consultation of revised draft legislation that would codify the principles of the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights into law.

“The more we do to protect consumer information and privacy, the harder it is for hackers to damage our businesses and hurt our economy,” Obama said. “Meanwhile, the more companies strengthen their cybersecurity, the harder it is for hackers to steal consumer information and hurt American families.”