The following is a very slightly abbreviated version of what President Obama wrote on February 23, 2012 as an introduction to the White House’s paper on Consumer Data Privacy which is available here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/privacy-final.pdf.
Americans have always cherished our privacy. From the birth of our republic, we assured ourselves protection against unlawful intrusion into our homes and our personal papers. At the same time, we set up a postal system to enable citizens all over the new nation to engage in commerce and political discourse. Soon after, Congress made it a crime to invade the privacy of the mails. And later we extended privacy protections to new modes of communications such as the telephone, the computer, and eventually email.
Justice Brandeis taught us that privacy is the “right to be let alone,” but we also know that privacy is about much more than just solitude or secrecy. Citizens who feel protected from misuse of their personal information feel free to engage in commerce, to participate in the political process, or to seek needed health care. This is why we have laws that protect financial privacy and health privacy, and that protect consumers against unfair and deceptive uses of their information. This is why the Supreme Court has protected anonymous political speech, the same right exercised by the pamphleteers of the early Republic and today’s bloggers.
Never has privacy been more important than today, in the age of the Internet, the World Wide Web and smart phones. In just the last decade, the Internet has enabled a renewal of direct political engagement by citizens around the globe and an explosion of commerce and innovation creating jobs of the future. Much of this innovation is enabled by novel uses of personal information. So, it is incumbent on us to do what we have done throughout history: apply our timeless privacy values to the new technologies and circumstances of our times.
…My Administration will work to advance these principles and work with Congress to put them into law. With this Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, we offer to the world a dynamic model of how to offer strong privacy protection and enable ongoing innovation in new information technologies.
One thing should be clear, even though we live in a world in which we share personal information more freely than in the past, we must reject the conclusion that privacy is an outmoded value. It has been at the heart of our democracy from its inception, and we need it now more than ever.
President Barack Obama
February 23, 2013
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