(Image via Shutterstock)
(Image via Shutterstock)

Lamenting a fast-approaching privacy crisis in the U.S., New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera this week reports what experts say should be included in a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, should Congress be so inclined to draft and pass one.
Among the privacy advocates’ recommendations that Nocera outlines under the headline The Wild West of Privacy:

  • Give people the “right to control what information of theirs gets sold and what remains private,” as well as the right to “see the information that is collected on them,” … by “every entity that collects data.”
  • Require companies “to explain to their customers why they need the data and what they will use it for;” and,
  • Impose consequences for privacy rights violations, punish data breaches such as the recent Target debacle “like an oil spill, with fines attached,” and “make it easier for people to sue.”

Nocera suggests that not just consumers, but also companies in the business of collecting their data—including Google, Facebook, and Acxiom—stand to benefit from regulation; after all, he writes, credit card companies objected to the 1967 Truth in Lending Act that turned out to be to their advantage because it “showed consumers, for the first time, that they had some protection from fraud or shady practices.” Nocera’s conclusion: “Sometimes, government has to save business from itself.”