In his last week in the Office, President Obama issued a report on data privacy and cybersecurity, “Privacy in Our Digital Lives: Protecting Individuals and Promoting Innovation” (January 2017). The report serves as a high-level overview on how people’s interaction with technology has changed in the last several years and what the government has done to protect individual privacy while advancing economy and national security. The report also highlighted the path forward. Many of the initiatives currently in the works or yet to come will require strong cooperation between the government and the private sector.
Some of the data-privacy highlights pointed out in the report are:
- Financial Privacy. The BuySecure Initiative announced by President Obama in 2014, which encouraged the deployment of new security technology (e.g., chip-and-PIN cards) for payments made in the United States.
- Broadband Privacy. New rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that give consumers more control over how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use their data, requiring ISPs to obtain user consent before sharing sensitive information they collect with advertisers and other third parties.
- Drone Privacy. Six Federal entities that use government-operated drones – the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, the Interior, Justice and Transportation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – have put in place privacy policies for their use of drones pursuant to President Obama’s 2015 Presidential Memorandum on safeguarding privacy in domestic use of unmanned aircraft systems.
- Children’s Privacy. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), enacted in 1998, was modernized in 2012 to address changes in technology and better protect online privacy of children under the age of 13.
- Student Privacy. President Obama’s Student Privacy Pledge has been signed by over 250 companies, including some of the Nation’s largest, that have agreed to limit collection and sharing of student data.
- International Commercial Privacy. The Obama Administration has undertaken a big task of putting in place the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, which involved months of drafting and negotiations with the EU authorities. The Privacy Shield’s provision of comprehensive privacy protections, backed by FTC enforcement, was key to ensure that cross-border commercial data transfers continued after the invalidation of Safe Harbor.
- Legislative Reforms. In 2015, President Obama signed into law the USA Freedom Act, which ended the U.S. Intelligence Community’s collection of bulk telephony metadata under the USA Patriot Act. The USA Freedom Act creates a more targeted approach whereby the government would generally require judicial permission to access call records held by telecommunications providers.
The Report also included “Areas for Further Attention,” which the Obama Administration hoped the new Administration would focus upon. These Areas are as follows: