Today at a Federal Trade Commission event President Barack Obama laid out four new cyber security initiatives, including a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

In his speech he noted that American consumers feel like they no longer have control over their personal information and that needs to be addressed.

“We pioneered the Internet, but we also pioneered the Bill of Rights,” he said.

National standards

In his remarks President Obama first outlined new legislation that would provide a national standard for banks and retailers on how to handle a data breach. The law would require companies to inform Americans when their information is stolen before fraudulent charges appear on their account. As it stands now, each state has its own set of rules regarding how companies and banks are supposed to respond, which can be difficult for consumers to navigate and often leaves them in the dark. His hope is that a national standard will help consumers be more proactive about protecting their information if they know when it’s at risk.

Free credit scores

President Obama said that the government is encouraging more banks and credit card issuers to start giving free credit reports to Americans, so they can check for fraudulent charges more regularly.

So far the President says that JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and USAA have all agreed to offer consumers credit reports free of charge. He also says the government will be recruiting more banks to join in this effort.

Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

The third and perhaps most interesting effort (especially for companies like Google and Facebook, whose business models revolve around consumer data) is this new piece of legislation. The proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights will give Americans the right to decide what personal information gets collected and how it gets used. It will also demand that American consumers have the right to have their information stored securely.

The new legislation, which is supposed to be introduced this week, is clearly a response not only to the hacks and breaches from last year, but also a retort to instances where companies have used consumer information in controversial ways (Facebook’s mood experiment comes to mind).

Student Digital Privacy Act

Finally, the President also said he’d be addressing the way companies collect information on children for targeted advertising. While he seem very excited about the educational opportunities that the Internet and technology have enabled for a wide spectrum of children in the U.S., he says there need to be protections in place for students’ personally identifiable information (PII).

The president says 75 companies have agreed not to engage in collecting data on students for targeted advertising. Part of the plan for the Student Digital Privacy Act is to identify companies that engage in this practice, so that parents and students can decide whether they want to avoid these companies if necessary.

These broad efforts are certainly an interesting first step — if Congress votes them into law. Considering the constant conservative bill blocking that’s gone on throughout Obama’s presidency, these ideas might never make it out the gate.

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