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    Op-Ed at the Hill: US must protect privacy better

    In an opinion column at the Hill, Darren Hayes, who chairs the computer information systems program at New York’s Pace University, writes about the need for strong U.S. laws to protect individual privacy rights:

    The United States has lagged behind other countries in protecting personal data, and the Obama administration’s new online privacy bill is a step in the right direction. If President Obama’s proposed privacy bill is passed, it will put U.S. citizens on par with other nations in terms of privacy. Nevertheless, it will be only the first step toward protecting consumers.

    Identity theft is rampant in the United States, and it is clear that more legislation to protect consumer data is needed. […]

    The problem is, there is very little protection for U.S. consumers. Under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, financial institutions must inform their customers of their privacy policy or any changes thereafter. Nevertheless, consumers can in no way prevent their personal data from being shared with third parties. […]

    Some might view the Obama administration’s new proposal as a ploy to gain greater support in an election year, but the online privacy bill should be viewed as a continuation of an existing effort to limit the control of big business over personal data. Last year’s Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Track proposal, with the bipartisan support of Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), illustrates that the president has for some time been serious about protecting consumers online. […]

    For this legislation to be effective, stiff fines must be levied on companies that fail to comply. Privacy policies need to become more comprehensive — consumers do not read lengthy End User License Agreements, and how many people actually understand them? In order for the United States to remain in line with the EU and other nations, the hope is that the main tenets of this legislation will not become diluted.

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