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White House releases 'privacy bill of rights': what it promises online consumers

While falling short of law, the consumer 'privacy bill of rights' would give consumers 'new legal and technical tools to safeguard their privacy,' according to the White House. 

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The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels.

Virginia Mayo/AP

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The White House Thursday unveiled its consumer "privacy bill of rights" – the long-anticipated guidelines on how companies should protect consumer information online.

The move comes amid heightened Internet privacy concerns including recent disclosures that personal data on mobile computing devices like smart phones are particularly vulnerable to tracking. Internet privacy advocates and states attorneys general have recently called for tightened Internet privacy provisions.

It appears the White House may have won a victory in getting influential companies, including Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL, to buy in to the plan. All have agreed to allow consumers to opt-out of online tracking. Companies that make the commitment could be subject to sanctions by the Federal Trade Commission for any violations.

“American consumers can’t wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online,” said President Obama in a statement. “As the Internet evolves, consumer trust is essential for the continued growth of the digital economy." 

While falling short of law, the voluntary measures were described as a step in that direction and would give consumers "new legal and technical tools to safeguard their privacy," according to a White House statement. 

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