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Earlier today, the Associated Press obtained a draft bill drawn up by the White House to provide stronger privacy protections online. If you thought this might be about reining in the NSA or something like that, you would be mistaken. President Obama has no intention of restraining the massive privacy violations being committed by his own administration, but he will propose new rules for how private companies can collect, store, and use their customers’ private data.

The bill has been criticized by privacy advocates, Democrats in Congress, and even the FTC for being too weak. The bill would encourage companies in the tech industry to draft their own code for handling privacy, and it would give the FTC power to take action against any company violating that code. The bill gives the FTC no rulemaking power, it can only enforce the rules created by the industry itself. For this reason it was criticized by the head of the Center for Digital Democracy, Jeffrey Chester, who stated, “It’s a big victory for the tech industry because it really sidelines the FTC and removes it as an effective force.”

The bill also contains many loopholes to let businesses get avoid consequences, for example startups are completely protected from any punishments for violating the this law for the first 18 months they are in operation. This law would also preempt state laws on privacy, which in many cases are stronger than this bill, and would actually set privacy protections back further than they are now, in some places.

The bill has also been criticized by some within in the tech industry as being too heavy-handed. The Internet Association, which represents Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other tech companies, has criticized the bill for casting too wide a net, and worries that it will stifle innovation. Since almost nobody is actually satisfied with the bill, it is unlikely to be passed by Congress with serious revisions.

Do you think this bill is a positive step for internet privacy? Is there a better way the government could be handling the issue? Leave your comment below.

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

  • Typical

    yeah, as if any administration would actually put screws to their corporate overlords. But you better be careful criticizing the president, you’ll be called a racist next.

  • What I fail to grok is the “corporate overlords” horse shit. Corporations don’t rule you, the GOVERNMENT does. Remove the power from the GOVERNMENT and return it to Constitutionally mandated levels and there will be NO “corporate” overlord or the actual Statist pigs we have now.

    To all the Obama supporters that voted for him _twice_…. I told you so. That is not and endorsement of Romney, you simpletons. So put the internet-tuff-guy responses away, I’ve heard them all.

  • Politicians can’t sell power they don’t have. Corruptissima republica, pluriae leges.

  • RightofMind

    I’d rather have less privacy and more transparency when it comes to these kinds of transactions. Instead of trying to hide and limit interactions, make it a more open process. The simple rule should be if you want to use my data, you have to tell me when i sign up and it should be an opt-in not an opt-out process. Leave me the choice whether or not I want to participate. Frankly, after seeing the mega bills that have become the rage of Congress the last decade I am fine with the FTC having zero rule making power. If you give an agency broad, unchecked rule making power, it will only be used and abused as we are seeing with the Health Care legislation and the FCC if their naked power grab survives court scrutiny.

  • Brad Sherard

    I think it is useful to understand what statism is; it is not the state, it is a society which permits and accepts violent rulers. Statism is not just the government but all the behaviors of people who use that monopoly of violence against innocent people. That includes corporations; their very definition states this: corporations are a legal abstraction which grants a group of people within an organization a promise of state protection from the consequences of their actions. Take BP as an example: the responsibility of the recent major oil spill was not laid at the feet of those who acted to cause it; it was applied to the legal entity called “BP”. The people in charge got political protection in exchange for favors. Worse, because the EPA and other government agencies grant corporations monopoly privilege on oil contracts, oil production is state subsidized so any fine levied at BP is passed directly onto consumers. Rather than fine a bad company and let good companies gain market share, the government rewards and ensures bad actors stay in control. So Tony Hayward and other corporatists socialize the cost of their mistakes while making a ton of money.

    There is no barrier between the state and legal institutions. These people are all using the same mechanism of control. Whether or not they have an official government title is meaningless. This is how fascism operates: indirect state control over a nominal free market. The people at the top of these corporations are every bit a part of the state as the politicians themselves.

  • Statism requires a powerful state that can determine the outcome of free market interactions and has a desire to see one over the other.

    We remove the power of the state to do this, and there is no corporate cronyism left. The Market decides. It’s not evil. It has no agenda, and with the government doing its job protecting individual liberty, there is no fear of “corporate overlords.”

    They want your money. They don’t want your life. Government wants your life. And will use YOUR money to do it.