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Kerry Proposes Legislation to Protect Online Privacy


Location: Washington, DC

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today released the following statement in response to the Federal Trade Commission's report on consumer online privacy.

"The Federal Trade Commission's report should be a wakeup call for every Internet user in this country. The report confirms that many companies -- both online and offline -- don't do enough to protect consumer privacy. Today's technology makes it easy for companies to obtain, collect, store, and transfer unprecedented amounts of information, but industry self regulation has proven inadequate to protect consumers. The report presents a thoughtful prescription for common practices that all firms should adopt and provides an important confirmation of the conclusions I've reached over the past few months while drafting privacy legislation.

"During the process of drafting legislation, I've concluded that consumers should have three nonnegotiable rights. First, all firms must put procedures in place to secure personally identifiable information. Second, consumers have a right to know in clear and concise terms what firms intend to collect, why, and how it will be used. Third, consumers should be given a simple mechanism for opting out of the process.

"Information collection is now a routine part of commerce, but proper stewardship of information is as important as how it is collected. Firms should have to notify consumers when privacy policies change and allow consumers to have their information anonymized if the company goes bankrupt or they want to terminate the relationship. Companies should make an effort to minimize the data collected, ensure it is protected while being transferred, and ensure continued accuracy of information throughout the process.

"The report also makes clear that properly protected information and respect for consumer trust can be good for both business and consumers. In that spirit, I propose that we allow for FTC approved safe harbor programs in which organizations and groups can establish procedures to enact the requirements that I've laid out and the report outlines. And while all firms should execute all of the principles, we can take a hybrid approach to enforcement where the most critical rights are protected through rulemaking while others may be subject to a complaint and adjudication process. Those actors participating in safe harbor programs would be subject to FTC oversight and penalties, but because of their voluntary participation and commitment to high standards, they would be free from a private right of action and the complaint and adjudication process."

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