Obama announces legislation protecting personal data, student digital privacy

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)
United States President Barack Obama said on Monday that he’s unveiling legislation as part of a plan to better protect Americans from identity theft and credit fraud.

Speaking from the Federal Trade Commission headquarters in Washington, DC, Pres. Obama said that new proposals out of the White House will aim to protect the privacy and personal information of Americans during the digital age as a surge of cyberattacks have seen such data all to regularly compromised in recently months.

Among the president’s proposals are a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights,” that Obama said will ensure that Americans’ confidential information is kept securely in the hands of financial services companies, as well as a “Student Digital Privacy Act” intended to protect children from invasions of privacy.

“We believe that consumers have the right to decide what personal data companies collect from them and how companies use that data, that information,” the president said of the consumer protection plan.

“Online interactions should be governed by clear principles — principles that look at the context in which data is collected and ensure that users’ expectations are not abused,” the White House added in a statement early Monday. “Within 45 days, the Administration will release this revised legislative proposal and today we call on Congress to begin active consideration of this important issue.”

The Student Digital Privacy Act, according to the White House, “would prevent companies from selling student data to third parties for purposes unrelated to the educational mission and from engaging in targeted advertising to students based on data collected in school – while still permitting important research initiatives to improve student learning outcomes, and efforts by companies to continuously improve the effectiveness of their learning technology products.”

Additionally, Pres. Obama said he’s endorsing new legislation to create a single, strong national standard in order for Americans to more readily know about any breaches that may potentially put their personally identifiable information into the hands of crooks and hackers.

Coupled with the recent decision from certain major banks to provide customers with complimentary credit reports, Obama said these changes will implement an early warning system that would aim to reduce the harm faced by a breach — not only when the financial sector is targeted specifically, but also in the event of a hack like the one that impacted Sony Pictures Entertainment late last year.

“This extraordinary interconnection” made possible by the internet “creates enormous opportunities,” Obama said, “but also creates enormously vulnerabilities for us as a nation and for our economy and for individuals.”

“If we’re going to be connected, then we need to be protected,” Obama said.

The president added that he’ll speak at the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday this week, “to focus on how we can work with the private sector to better defend ourselves from cyberattacks.”