In my last post, I discussed how many of the newer and upcoming laws regarding privacy in the United States can heavily effect your life, from how you buy insurance to which bits of personal information are gathered while you shop online, go to the bank, or talk on the phone. While the first post of this four part series dealt with the effect of these laws on your digital life; this post, in particular, will focus on the effects of the same on Digital commerce.
Much like your social activities, your consumer habits and activities are also subject to privacy violations, especially when they occur online or through a mobile device. The following are laws that seek to address a number of major issues related to consumer privacy rights.
Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA)Proposed by Rep. Michael Rogers and co-sponsored by 111 other House members, CISPA is designed to help the government better investigate cyber threats and ensure that large networks are secure against the threat of cyberattack. To do that, the act would allow for the sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S. government and certain technology and manufacturing companies. While noble in its intention, the act has been widely criticized for endangering privacy and civil liberties, though some large technology companies (Microsoft and Facebook) favor it as a simple and effective way of sharing important cyber threat information with authorities. Read about CISPA in detail here.
- How It Will Affect You: If CISPA becomes law, it would make it harder for cyber criminals to execute major attacks on networks. However, it may also mean that the government could also easily, and without warrant, track any individual’s browsing history. As the bill is presently worded, there are few limits on when or how the government can monitor an individual, and it may even make certain kinds of spyware legal if it is being used in good faith for a cybersecurity purpose.
- Timeline: CISPA was introduced in late 2011 and was passed by the House of Representatives in mid-2012. While gaining early support, Obama’s advisors have argued that the bill could be a major risk to confidentiality and civil liberties and it is likely he would veto it if it passes.
Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights On April 12, 2011, Senators Kerry and McCain introduced the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights to establish a baseline code of conduct for how personal information can be used, stored, and distributed. The bill of rights has since been picked up by the Obama administration and adapted in a report titled “Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy.” In both instances, the bill of rights lays out principles that would work to protect personal data and to improve consumer security. It is not a piece of legislation in itself, but a guideline for building and enacting future regulations and laws that will impact tech companies and online retailers.
- How It Will Affect You: While nothing has been passed yet, this outline could help protect your personal data from abuse by retailers and ensure that it’s not sold to a third party or in any other way compromised.
- Timeline: First proposed in early 2011, it could be quite some time before this bill of rights is translated into any real kind of legislation, especially if there is major pushback from Congress or tech companies themselves. If companies begin to better self-regulate privacy issues, no additional legislation may be needed.
Application Privacy, Protection, and Security Act of 2013 Congressman Hank Johnson proposed the APPS Act early this year. The act is designed to address concerns with the data collection being done through applications on mobile devices and would require that app developers provide greater transparency about their data collection practices, ensure reasonable levels of data security, and allow users to opt out of data collection or have the option to delete data that has been collected on them.
- How It Will Affect You: The APPS Act would ensure that apps on your phone aren’t gathering, storing, or sharing information about you without your knowledge or consent. It doesn’t mean that data can’t or won’t be collected, just that consumers will have greater knowledge and potentially the ability to opt out of certain aspects of this process.
- Timeline: The draft of the bill was released in January 2013 and is currently just a discussion draft, meaning that it hasn’t been formally introduced for passage just yet. It’s likely that discussions with app developers and consumer advocates will help to shape the final draft and it could be a couple of years before any final decisions are made on the legislation.
Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011 Worried about the potential risks for stalking posed by cell phones loaded with GPS and apps that gather information about a user’s location, Senator Al Franken, along with several co-sponsors, proposed this bill to fill in loopholes in federal law that allow companies to obtain location-based information on consumers and to share that information with third parties. While some app developers have complained that this hinders location-based advertising, others agree that privacy needs to be protected and that location-based tracking should only be allowed within apps that consumers have given consent to do so.
- How It Will Affect You: The Location Privacy Protection Act, if passed, with protect you from having mobile data on your whereabouts tracked, stored, or shared without your knowledge or consent. It would not eliminate the ability of mobile technologies to track your location but would only ensure transparency and greater security, though it may be cumbersome with some existing systems of location-based advertising.
- Timeline: The bill has been under development since 2011 and is still being refined and tailored take into consideration the needs of all involved parties. Franken is expected to push the measure later this year and if passed the bill could see enforcement as early as 2014.