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The Obama administration has announced a plan to protect Internet users in the United States. In February the administration proposed what it calls a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. The bill is meant to give Americans more control over their personal information.
President Obama said that "never has privacy been more important than today, in the age of Internet, the World Wide Web and smartphones."
Under the Privacy Bill of Rights, Americans would have more control over what personal data companies collect from them and how they use it. It also would require the companies to be more open about their privacy and security policies.
Darren Hayes is head of the Computer Information Systems Program at Pace University in New York. He says many countries in Europe and Asia already have online privacy laws in place. He called the proposed legislation in the United States long overdue and a step in the right direction. "I think that in its present form it looks very effective... The average online user does need more transparency and more control over the use of their information."
Professor Hayes says the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights would hold companies like Facebook and Google to a higher level of responsibility. "I think in practical terms it's going to make online companies more accountable for what they do. It also seeks to provide more transparency about how third parties are sharing their information and give the user, hopefully, the ability to opt out of having their information shared."
The new measures are part of a larger government effort to improve online privacy. The administration has urged Congress to pass legislation in support of the measures. It also wants lawmakers to give the Federal Trade Commission and state officials additional powers to enforce them. Professor Hayes says the effectiveness of the bill will depend strongly on that. In a related development, a group of companies that make Internet browsers agreed to support plans for adding "do-not-track" technology to their browsers. The group agreed not to use tracking information to target personalized ads to users who do not wish to be identified. The companies will, however, still collect the information.