Consumer Reports Debuts Impartial Privacy Standard

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Consumer Reports, which has launched a new initiative to develop a digital standard to measure the privacy and security of products, apps and services.

Ever wish there were an impartial, third-party review option that could help you evaluate the true level of privacy safeguards for online services? Typically, one only has internet giants’ self-serving assurances and regulatory controls to help foster confidence. Into that breach now comes the venerable citizen advocate organization. The goal is to help companies prioritize consumers’ data security and privacy needs.

The standard was developed in partnership with leading privacy, security, and consumer rights organizations. The coalition behind the new digital standard also is inviting broader input and collaboration from a range of stakeholders to help develop and improve the new protocol. New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI), which has lately focused on promoting corporate policies that foster a more open and secure internet through projects like its Transparency Reporting Toolkit and the new “Do the Right Thing” collection of case studies, plans to participate in the continued development and application of the new standards.

“Our research shows that users lack adequate information about how companies’ policies and practices affect their privacy, security, and other rights like freedom of expression,” said Rebecca MacKinnon, director of Ranking Digital Rights, a non-profit research initiative housed at OTI and a partner in the collaborative effort. “We believe that this effort can help people make more informed decisions about how they use technology. We also believe that the digital standard will help companies do a better job of protecting and respecting users’ rights.”

Kevin Bankston, director of OTI, added, “In our research on how best to drive internet companies to adopt strong privacy and security policies, the use of rankings and standards to judge whether companies are doing the right thing—and to prompt them to compete to see who can do the best by their customers—has repeatedly been an effective lever for change.”

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