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TheStreet Open House

Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights: Don't Start Cheering Yet

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- It's no secret advertisers love to collect data on you to create better-targeted ads, and efforts to allow consumers to keep their data private have relied largely on self-enforcement regimes. Now the government is getting involved.

The Obama administration released a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Thursday that lays out seven principles of privacy protections, including the right to exercise control over the dissemination of one's data and the right to transparent privacy policies. The bill of rights is not legislation, acting more as a framework and statement of principles, but it sounds like the administration means business.

Privacy experts say it's unclear what will come out of a proposal for a 'bill of rights' to protect consumer data.

"The administration supports federal legislation that adopts the principles of the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights," reads the statement. For now, though, the bill of rights remains a statement of principles, and as such it's difficult to say what the end result will be.

"The devil is going to be in the details," acknowledges Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy for the nonprofit group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. "It is a framework that certainly represents a decent start, but the key is going to be in three components," he says, which include the legislation and regulations that grow out of it, and the enforcement thereof.

On paper, then, it looks fine as a work in progress, though Stephens does acknowledge that at least one provision -- the "Respect for Context" clause, which says companies "will collect, use, and disclose personal data in ways that are consistent with the context in which consumers provide the data" -- seems somewhat subjective and open for interpretation. As such, consumers concerned about their privacy will have to wait and see how this vague language of the bill of rights will translate into actionable regulation.

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