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Obama's Privacy Bill of Rights: Just a Beginning 222

jfruh writes "Last night the White House hastily arranged a phone conference at which a 'Privacy Bill of Rights' was announced. It's an important document, not least because it affirms the idea that our data belongs to us, not to companies that happen to collect it. But it has a number of shortcomings, not least among them the companies aren't required to respect the rules laid out."
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Obama's Privacy Bill of Rights: Just a Beginning

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  • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @05:36PM (#39140931)
    So this is a Privacy Bill of Suggestions :)
    • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:33PM (#39141443)

      Privacy Bill of Suggestions

      In this country, that's progress. However, we are still woefully lacking compared to the EU, where privacy is taken very seriously and most industries are required to disclose any and all personal data held and delete it upon request. And I'm not talking the "We just hid it from our homepage" delete either, but a bona fide "We don't have it anymore, anywhere, and if we do we could be sued for a very large amount of money."

      It's stuff like this that has firmly convinced me that while the US might have been the origination point of the internet, it is no longer a leader, or even in the race, when it comes to either innovation or culture. My country's only political agenda is its GDP. It will do so even if it means feeding its own citizens to the wolves in the process... Anything to make a buck.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        In this country, that's progress.

        How is NOT moving forward considered progress again?

        If they don't have to respect the suggested "rules", then it isn't doing ANYONE a favor. At all. Period.

        • Which is why people want to mandate EVERY LAST DETAIL. How would you mandate people respect privacy? Would you throw people in jail for violations, even if accidental/innocent? If someone "poor" violated the mandate (law), would you fine them, jail them if they couldn't pay, ignore them?

          The problem isn't with the goal (protect privacy), it is always with implementation, and how it never fixes the problem it intends to.

          • Which is why people want to mandate EVERY LAST DETAIL. How would you mandate people respect privacy? Would you throw people in jail for violations, even if accidental/innocent? If someone "poor" violated the mandate (law), would you fine them, jail them if they couldn't pay, ignore them?

            The problem isn't with the goal (protect privacy), it is always with implementation, and how it never fixes the problem it intends to.

            I am pretty sure that the vast majority of "privacy violations" have nothing to do with individuals selling your personal information. It is typically with corporations, who CAN be fined for their actions. However, the fines mean nothing if they are meager amounts like $50,000 fines going to, say, Google for leaking your home address, phone number, date of birth and the size shoe you wear.

            February 23, 2012, 12:59 PM — At hastily arranged call-in conference last night, the Obama White House and

      • by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Thursday February 23, 2012 @09:52PM (#39143167)

        So tired of hearing how privacy is so highly upheld in the EU, while at the same time reading about government after government mandating the retention of every tweet, email, text, gps position of every single citizen. Give it a rest, will ya?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I know that this may be hard for an American to understand, but we over here still distinguish between government and corporations.
      • by endus ( 698588 )

        Yea, progress towards another watered down piece of shit that does more harm than good.

        You don't seriously think the government is going to do something in our interests that might inconvenience corporations even slightly or impede their ability to invade our privacy do you? There is no financial motive for doing so.

      • "We don't have it anymore, anywhere, and if we do we could be put in jail for a very long time."


        Corporations would be willing to take the risk if it's only a financial penalty that they need to worry about.

    • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:44PM (#39141543)

      Obama is president, not king. He can't force companies to do anything unless Congress first gives him the power to do so, and there's no chance in hell that the current Congress would give him the Heimlich if he were literally dying in front of them, let alone pass a bill at his suggestion.

      • by endus ( 698588 )

        Nor does he want to force them to do anything. All he's doing is posturing for the election with another meaningless piece of shit legislation.

    • by slick7 ( 1703596 )

      So this is a Privacy Bill of Suggestions :)

      This bill of rights will go the same way as the last "Bill of Rights", the way of the Constitution.

    • by RKBA ( 622932 )
      I would have rated you funny if you weren't already at 5, Insightful. ;-)
  • by therealkevinkretz ( 1585825 ) * on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:15PM (#39141257)

    ... with how his Administration (or the previous one, before you partisan bedwetters get all bunched up) has treated the *actual* Bill of Rights. So I don't have much hope for its respecting the goals of this one.

    • by Artraze ( 600366 )

      Don't be silly! Of course they'll be interested in supporting the goals of this legislation!
      Look, it's already generating positive sound bytes for his campaign, and is non committal enough he'll surely still get oodles of corporate contributions!

  • Even with flaws, it's a step in the right direction. Hopefully this will make people more aware of the issue.
    • Or it might be a step backwards. People might think the administration is taking steps to protect their privacy and lull them into a false sense of security, while in fact nothing really changes.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by incer ( 1071224 )
        Well, "people" didn't even know about the problems with online privacy. Now the media will talk about it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:18PM (#39141297)

    Mr. President,

    Please let me know when you plan on respecting our privacy rights w/r/t warrant-less wiretaps and data-mining of personal information of American citizens by the NSA, FBI, and etc.

    Otherwise your so-called "Privacy Bill of Rights" is just a shallow gimmick designed to score brownie points from the less informed and less attentive among us in the electorate.

    • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <> on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:43PM (#39141529)

      Otherwise your so-called "Privacy Bill of Rights" is just a shallow gimmick designed to score brownie points from the less informed and less attentive among us in the electorate.

      Unfortunately, the "less informed and less attentive" far, far outnumber the rest of us.

      We have two options. First is advocacy (make the people more informed and, hopefully, more attentive). This has worked pretty well in stopping at least some of the bullshit.

      Secondly is getting people who are all about the whole "fair play" kinda thing - you know, respecting the Constitution and civil rights, acting for the benefit of the people instead of the benefit of corporations, etc. - actually elected into offices. That is much more difficult and I really wish someone with a fanbase would step up and leverage that social power towards getting elected and making a particular change in our government.

      The people who are most able to affect such a change are the "leaders" - mayor, governer, president, etc. It is said that without compromise, nothing will ever get passed. Even the most honest politician will be stopped by an uncooperative legislature because he didn't sign off on their latest bad bill in order to get his good bill pushed through. The solution to this (that is rarely, if ever, resorted to) is twofold: first, directly tell the public that the city/state/national legislature is being a bunch of asshats and trying to stop this good thing from happening, and secondly to veto everything you don't like. (A lot of the votes in any given legislature are close enough that they are unlikely to pass a veto override).

      We (as in those who use the Internet for more than lolcats and WoW) have a lot of power that we just need to get together and use to effect real change. Look at how we managed to stop SOPA and PIPA. Had the Patriot Act been proposed ten years later (instead of in the early 2000s when broadband penetration was still comparatively low), it would never have passed thanks to our efforts. We use it too often in a reactionary fashion instead of a pro-active fashion.

      Please, someone who has the gusto to be honest step up and make a run for office. Any office. Try to be the mayor of somewhere insignificant like West Bumblefuck, Ohio, or Newark, NJ. Get the tech savvy people behind you, and use your connection with them to pull the populace out of its apathy. I'd do it if I thought I had a chance in hell, but I'm pretty sure I don't.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He's in campaign mode this year. That means he's less believable than ever. Watch for all of the "Ideas" he and his cabinet have been shooting down to re-emerge as his. Watch him try and reverse the tables on the massive energy melt down his group caused by shutting down our offshore drilling and like minded antics. This year should be epic on spin from the White House.

      • Yeah, shutting down off shore drilling is insane. I mean, it's not like anything happened.
        • by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @09:45PM (#39143107)

          Yeah, shutting down off shore drilling is insane. I mean, it's not like anything happened.

          No, Obama and his administration did NOT shut down offshore drilling, not even in the area of the doomed Deep Horizon platform in the Gulf.

          He simply turned it over to people he likes better than US oil companies.

          The oil company Petrobras of Brazil that George Soros heavily invested in just prior to Obama's decision. Obama even announced that the US was going to start engaging in more oil business with Brazil like it was a great thing.

          But, I'm sure that having Brazil's oil company do the drilling rather than US companies will turn out to be much safer and better for the environment

          Safer for Obama, his corrupt cronies, and the Left's agenda, not the Gulf of Mexico's environment. Of course, the environmental groups all ignore his actions, which just proves that the majority of the environmental movement organizations are simply partisan political action groups.


    • by PMuse ( 320639 )

      Dear Mr. President,

      Howsa bout I vote for you again and then you introduce these proposals as actual Constitutional Amendments. You know--the kind that bind the executive branch.

      Otherwise, your so-called "Privacy Bill of Rights" is not only a shallow gimmick, but also confuses the citizenry about what the real Bill of Rights used to be.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:20PM (#39141317)

    Hey Barack, how about a Bill of Rights that protects me against *your* NSA, CIA, and FBI reading my goddamned emails, listening to my phone calls, and asking my doctor how long my dick is without at least a court order?

    • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:33PM (#39141439)

      ...asking my doctor how long my dick is without at least a court order?

      Most women would appreciate the government staying out of their vaginas as well. Unlike your joke about penis size, they have real intrusions to complain about on the privacy front.

      • they have real intrusions to complain about on the privacy front

        You've got me curious. Could you name some? Abortion isn't a privacy intrusion and that's all I can think of.

        • Regardless of your view on abortion,

          The Roe vs Wade ruling forming the basis of US abortion law today determined that abortion is a privacy issue.
          "the Court ruled that a right to privacy under the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution extends to a woman's decision to have an abortion"

          • Wow, that's rather tortured reasoning. I hate to think I agree with the dissenting opinion on Roe v. Wade, but finding a right to privacy in the 14th Amendment at all, let alone calling abortion a privacy issue, seems ridiculous to my novice ears. In any case, thanks for bringing it up.
        • Abortion isn't a privacy intrusion

          According to Roe v Wade, it all came down to a "right to privacy".

        • they have real intrusions to complain about on the privacy front

          You've got me curious. Could you name some? Abortion isn't a privacy intrusion and that's all I can think of.

          Birth control.

          • Certainly birth control is an issue related to women that is sometimes the subject of government regulation. I don't see a privacy (= "The state of being free from public attention") issue there, though.
  • Need more teeth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:22PM (#39141333)

    It needs to apply to government as well as the private sector.

  • Another problem. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 ( 710161 )

    Another problem is that it makes no sense to say that data doesn't "belong" to people who collect it. It clearly does, and there isn't really anything the government can do about it. If you wan't to keep something secret, keep it secret! It that so hard to understand?

    • by F69631 ( 2421974 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:40PM (#39141507)

      The era of massive data mining is beginning. [] And that's just your groceries, not your online behavior, which likely contains a lot more hidden clues.

      When companies can decide to track and analyze your behavior in any way they want to, reasonably accurately predict things such as pregnancies, marriages, divorces, etc., and use it to their advantage, intentionally disguising all this from you... it's borderline absurd to say "people should just keep their secrets secret".

      It's true that it's arguable whether this sort of behavior should be regulated (It's not "evil" that they just look what you've bought and try to predict your interests based on that) and if we decide to regulate it, we'll face a lot of problems... But it's quite odd to say that there shouldn't be a lot of public discourse around this subject (It's relevant to a lot of people and we already have some laws about ethical advertising and for a good reason) and just silly to say that people should take personal responsibility about how data miners figure out things they've never told anyone.

      • by cdrguru ( 88047 )

        Probably a far better question is when your purchases at a grocery store are scanned who owns the scan data? Right now the grocery store sells it to a marketing company which analyzes is and sells the aggregated data back to manufacturers and the like.

        So if you are in the business of selling toothbrushes wouldn't you like to know if your brand is being beat out by some upstart in Whole Foods stores but not in the low-cost no-frils stores? Would that not tell you something important? Literally, this is th

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Good luck with that. This is why harsh privacy laws already exist in some countries, germany and canada for example. They can try to mine whatever the hell they want, but the second that they violate the laws of the country and they operate here they're screwed.

    • Try to be more naive.... i bet you cant.

  • by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:26PM (#39141363)

    Obama is looking for issues that will take the public's attention away from Gas prices.

    I would suggest the US use the EU standards, but lately the EU bends over anytime the US says boo.

  • Companies? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mmcxii ( 1707574 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:30PM (#39141415)
    I'll worry about that once we get a half ounce of respect from our so-called leadership that craps on our rights like it was their job.

    Keep your eyes on both hands, boys and girls.
  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:39PM (#39141503)

    I can't understand you people! President Obama is doing everything he can to help the people of the world and you whiners complain about your precious privacy! I hope he turns the NSA, CIA and FBI loose on you people and hunts everyone of you down and sends you to Gitmo. See how you like your precious privacy then!!!

    Obama 2012!!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:40PM (#39141505)

    First, every website had to have its own "Privacy Policy."

    Now, we need a federally-mandated one?

    Anyway--a quick search reveals numerous existing "Bill of Rights," for example:

    Voter's Bill of Rights
    Patient's Bill of Rights
    Donor Bill of Rights
    Academic Bill of Rights
    Landowners Bill of Rights
    Taxicab Rider Bill of Rights (NYC; Ha! Figures!)
    The eBook User's Bill of Rights
    Visual Effects Industry Bill of Rights
    Merchant Bill of Rights
    Campus Sexual Assault Victims' Bill of Rights

    * Stop calling anything but our original Bill of Rights a "Bill of Rights" -- to do so is to diminish its significance and uniqueness

    * With so many "Bills of Rights," collectively they mean little--just like so many "Privacy Policies"

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:42PM (#39141521)

    That's the whole point of rights. All the rights in the bill of rights are negative rights. They don't tell people they can do stuff they say the government can't stop them doing it.

    So for example, the freedom of speech doesn't say I can stand on a soap box and sing show tunes backwards. It says the government can't stop me from doing that.

    It doesn't stay you can have a religion or beliefs. It says the government can't stop you from having them.

    So on and so forth. They're more about restraining the government.

    So... Is that what Obama has done here? Has he said the government can't do certain things? Because I rather doubt it. And if he hasn't then he's not offering anyone rights so much as putting additional regulations on ISPs. That isn't a right. If he wants to give me a right then he can agree the government will leave the internet alone.

    • Corporations and cartel are what the government used to coorporation cannot do certain things to individuals...and that is the bill of right !

      • Really? How many millions of people have corporations killed in the last 100 years? Because governments have probably killed at least a billion people over the last 100 years.

        There is no comparison. Saying corporations are the new government is ignorant.

        • by tizan ( 925212 )

          If this is your standard about protecting individual rights...

          Who has more control an individual rights your senator or Goldman Sachs ?

          If killing people is your standard about lack of protecting individual rights... ...then i'll say count the toll of tobacco companies, oil in 3rd world countries, including your mac manufacturers in china etc etc... it is definitely more than all the wars in the last 30 years combined. BTW a billion is a lot...on an aside i'll let you decide what is more ignorant ...pleas

          • Not a fair comparison.

            No senator can do anything to your rights alone. However, the senate itself with the cooperation with the house can.

            So a better comparison would be "who can control your individual rights more All the Big Corporations or The total might of the United States Government?

            Here's a way to guess... who would win in a war between the major corporations and the US government?

            The corps can't fight. The national guard could walk around through wallstreet and execute them all going door to door a

    • "Rights" are a rhetorical device. I can more easily convince you that my policy should be followed if I appeal to some mystical authority by talking about rights. I don't mind this conceit as a rule. My point is it's a bit silly to define rights as restrictions on the government's power when the term has no real meaning. Obama('s underlings) seem to be using it precisely as rhetoric here.

      Strictly speaking, your assertion

      All the rights in the bill of rights are negative rights. They don't tell people they can do stuff they say the government can't stop them doing it.

      isn't true. For instance,

      In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial...

      This gives a right to accused persons. It does not say the gove

      • As to the rights of the accused, it limits how much time the government has to present its case.

        Effectively it says " the government must be ready to try a case shortly after arrest"...

        Thus it remains a restriction on government action. You can't arrest someone and then not try them for years. The government must be ready to go to trial within a specified time or the accused must be released.

        Try to explain Obama's position in the terms I used. You'll find that it's hard for you to call anything a right that

        • Your definition of rights as things telling the government what it can't do to the people is interesting, though not standard. The first definition I found, "That which is morally correct, just, or honorable," is decidedly different. This would seem to be the definition used in "The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights". That the actual Bill of Rights can be interpreted as limiting government power is immaterial. Rights in general, operationally at least, limit the power of some group or people, not necessarily

          • Maybe this will help you.

            Do you know what a white list and a black list is?

            Okay... The constitution contains portions that are both white list and black list.

            The white list is filled with all the powers the government is supposed to have. Things like national defense, ability to negotiate diplomacy, collect taxes, etc.

            The bill of rights is all blacklist. Its not talking to the people and saying "you have these rights" it's talking to the government and saying "you can't do these things".

            Read the bill of rig

            • I've understood you since your original post. You don't seem to understand me, since you keep repeating the same points over and over while ignoring what I've said. I don't see the point in continuing this conversation, though thank you for trying.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:53PM (#39141627)

    Words are easy. Actions are harder. Here's an ABC reporter taking Obama's press secretary to task for using the Espionage Act to take whistleblowers to court again and again. []

  • Real privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Larry_Dillon ( 20347 ) <> on Thursday February 23, 2012 @07:05PM (#39141757) Homepage

    First, how about giving email the same level of privacy as postal email?

    The problem with these rules are that bad actors don't have to follow them. We need things like actual end-to-end encryption so companies and malicious individuals can't snoop. (see Code is Law, Lawrence Lessig).

  • Data ownership (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dave Emami ( 237460 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @07:07PM (#39141783) Homepage

    ... our data belongs to us, not to companies that happen to collect it.

    I know I'm in the minority on this, but I disagree with the underlying assumption that data belongs to you by virtue of being about you. Take it down to the simplest level: Adam sees Bob crossing the street. "Bob crossed the street" is the data, an observation that belongs to Adam (the observer) not Bob (the observed), by virtue of now residing in Adam's brain, which belongs to him, not to Bob. Everything else is just communication, storage, analysis, and technological assistance. It comes back to this fundamental point once you remove the obfuscating details, and Bob doesn't acquire the right to perform a partial lobotomy on Adam just because he doesn't like what or how much Adam knows about him, or whom Adam might tell, or what decisions Adam might make based on what he knows.

    This assumes, of course, that Adam didn't violate Bob's rights in order to make these observations -- he didn't trespass by breaking into Bob's house, for instance.

    • Re:Data ownership (Score:4, Interesting)

      by randy of the redwood ( 1565519 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @08:52PM (#39142727)
      Actually, I agree. I'd go a bit further, and if we all agree that for these free services (gmail, facebook, etc.) that we are the product, not the service, we should be very careful about how much restriction we want to put on these providers.

      I'd vote that they MUST tell us what they keep, so we can decide if that price is fair for the service received.

      I'd vote against mandatory restrictions on what they can keep. I am willing to pay some level of privacy intrusion, just like I am willing to pay some amount of my attention by accepting advertisements in TV and web pages, so that I can avoid paying actual currency for many services these 'free' vendors provide.

    • Re:Data ownership (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @09:03PM (#39142829) Homepage

      Okay, but now assume we're not talking about some observation Alice (I like Alice as my A name better) made about Bob while Bob was out walking, but some personal information Bob specifically gave to Alice because Alice was doing something for Bob where she needed that information.

      Nobody else needs that information. Bob has not agreed to let it be shared with anyone else. He gave it to her because it was necessary, not because he wanted to have everyone know it. You can say "tough shit" and then forced everyone to choose between having every fact of their life known or not getting anything done. I think a reasonable society can find a better middle ground.

      Alice doesn't need to be lobotomized. She just needs to respect Bob's wishes that she not share the information with anyone else without his permission.

      Why's that so much to ask?

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @07:19PM (#39141899) Journal

    If there was substance, it would be meaningful and might offend someone - either his corporate donor/masters, or his slavering popular, followers.

    The previous president was no substance, and no image.
    The current one has improved, he has "image" out the kazoo.

  • What a joke. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Loosifur ( 954968 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @07:22PM (#39141919)

    Everything listed in the "Privacy Bill of Rights" is common-sense, caveat emptor-type stuff, or is easily handled by a standard contract. But by making it part of a "Privacy Bill of Rights" enforced by some government agency, it implies that these "rights" are bestowed by the government, which means that they can be repealed in the future, which would actually harm privacy.

    Maybe Barry should start small. Say with the whole indefinite detention thing, or maybe just something simple, like taking it easy with the drone strikes on American citizens abroad.

  • by gmuslera ( 3436 ) *
    Is not "our data belong to us", is "YOUR data belong to us".
  • by FrootLoops ( 1817694 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @07:51PM (#39142203)
    Here's the actual document []. Appendix A contains the "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights". (There's a link in TFA, but for those who want to skip to the source, here you go.)
  • by Stormy Dragon ( 800799 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @08:48PM (#39142697) Homepage

    The problem is that this document never defines what it means by either "consumer" or "personal data" (although there are suggestions they're both far broader then we'd normally use the terms: "Still, data brokers and other companies that collect personal data without direct consumer interactions or a reasonably detectable presence in consumer-facing activities should seek innovative ways to provide consumers with effective Individual Control."). Given this will get the typically clueless implementation that Congress invariably comes up with on technology matters, this creates all kinds of possibilities for abuse.

    Does The Church of Scientology have a right to control the content of its Wikipedia page? If a news organization does an undercover investigation of corruption at some company, do they have to approve the distribution of information that gets collected? Is talking about who's funding a particular interest group allowed?

  • This has no protections whatsoever against government agents using synthetic telepathy [] to read your mind remotely. So this is just more government PR baloney based on making people believe that we're still using obsolete technology, when in fact they've been doing the "alien" abductions and putting the electrodes in people's brains for years now.
  • Some things I'd like to be private. My junk, my wife's body and totally my kids body's. Does he include that?
  • I just cannot see the white house coming out with sensible policy for this.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"