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Commerce Department Privacy Report Leaves Consumers In The Cold, Recommendations Favor Current Industry Practices, Consumer Watchdog Says

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Thu, Dec 16, 2010 at 10:00 am

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Commerce Department Privacy Report Leaves Consumers In The Cold, Recommendations Favor Current Industry Practices, Consumer Watchdog Says

WASHINGTON, DC — The Commerce Department’s “Green Paper” about online privacy is an industry friendly document that would perpetuate current failed practices that give companies, not consumers, control of consumer data, Consumer Watchdog said today.

The report calls for “voluntary, enforceable codes.” It proposes relying on a failed self-regulatory model when it’s clear that real regulations with meaningful enforcement are necessary, Consumer Watchdog said.

“The Commerce report starts off on the wrong foot with the title, ‘Commercial Data Privacy…’ We are talking about consumers’ data and their right to privacy, not about a business commodity,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Advocate with the nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest group. “This is an early Christmas gift to the data collection industry.”

“There is a fundamental conflict of interest in putting the administration’s Privacy Policy Office in the Commerce Department. The department’s job is to promote business.  Protecting consumers is simply not on its agenda,” said Simpson.

Consumer Watchdog said that even though the Commerce Department’s proposals are inadequate to protect consumers, the report will play an important role in prompting necessary debate about privacy policies.

On Dec. 1, the Federal Trade Commission issued its own online privacy report, which noted that industry self-regulation has failed to protect consumer privacy.

Consumer Watchdog has been working to protect consumers’ online privacy rights and educate them about the issues through its Inside Google Project. The goal has been to convince Google of the social and economic importance of giving consumers control over their online lives. By persuading Google, the Internet’s leading company, to adopt adequate guarantees, its policies could become the gold standard for privacy for the industry, potentially improving the performance of the entire online sector.

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Consumer Watchdog, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, DC and Santa Monica, CA. Consumer Watchdog’s website is www.ConsumerWatchdog.org. Visit our new Google Privacy and Accountability Project website: http://insidegoogle.com

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 362 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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