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Blumenthal: Obama Privacy Policy Could be Improved Blumenthal: Obama Privacy Policy Could be Improved

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Congress

Blumenthal: Obama Privacy Policy Could be Improved

March 15, 2012

While praising the Obama administration's privacy proposal as an important first step, one influential Senate Democrat on privacy issues said Thursday that he believes it needs to be improved by making the plan mandatory.

"I think he meant it as a first draft," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told the Consumer Federation of America at a forum on consumer issues. "In my view it can be improved."

Last month, the administration proposed a consumer privacy bill of rights, which calls on companies to adhere to a set of principles aimed at giving consumers more control over their personal data. The Commerce Department led the effort to craft the privacy policy, which was based on a draft report the department released n December 2010.

While the administration urged Congress to codify its proposed privacy bill of rights into law, the White House focused more immediate attention on its call for industry to implement the principles through voluntary codes of conduct. Blumenthal voiced concern with the White House's focus on this voluntary approach.

"I think as long as they're voluntary, they won't be worth much," Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal, a former Connecticut attorney general, has been an active voice on privacy issues since coming to the Senate last year and sits on the Senate Judiciary Privacy, Technology and the Law Subcommittee. He introduced legislation last summer with subcommittee Chairman Al Franken, D-Minn., that would require companies to get consent before collecting location data from smart phone users.

Blumenthal also said he favors an opt-in approach over the administration's call for giving consumers the choice to opt out of having information collected about them while they surf the Internet or use apps on their smart phone.

"His bill of rights adopted an opt-out approach and you all know what that means. Consumers are sent a piece of paper ...[and] told they have to write or email to opt out," he said. "In my view it ought to be required that consumers opt in."

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