In this issue
Tech Policy Outside the Beltway
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Privacy remains one of the Internet’s unresolved challenges, leaving consumers unsatisfied and companies at risk. A more activist Federal Trade Commission is making privacy a priority. Yesterday, the Commission kicked off a “roundtable” series on the future of privacy; CDT’s Leslie Harris was on the first panel. Some believe that next year may finally see Congressional action on federal privacy legislation – a goal long supported by CDT and leading Internet companies. With CDT at the center of the debate, this issue of Tech Policy Download focuses on consumer privacy.
Yesterday, timed to the FTC roundtable, CDT released a report examining the self-regulatory practices of the online behavioral advertising industry. The detailed report centers on the application of the full set of Fair Information Practices (FIPs), widely recognized as the best framework for information privacy. The report finds that the self-regulatory guidelines—despite some recent progress—aren't strong enough or comprehensive enough. CDT believes that consumers are best served by a system in which self-regulation and legislation work in tandem with consumer education and privacy-sensitive product design. To fully protect consumer privacy interests requires Congress to pass a general consumer privacy law and give the Federal Trade Commission broader rulemaking authority over consumer privacy in general and behavioral advertising practices specifically, the report concludes. In advance of the FTC's Privacy Roundtable, CDT submitted comments on refocusing the agency's role in privacy protection.
When Google’s settlement with publishers over the controversial Google Books Service was withdrawn for revisions in September, CDT joined other advocates calling for the agreement to include stronger privacy protections for users. Unfortunately, those recommendations seem to have fallen largely on deaf ears, as the revised settlement contains few new protections for privacy. Instead, the revisions narrowly address the copyright and antitrust problems raised by the Department of Justice. CDT had urged Google to make specific privacy commitments enforceable by the court overseeing the settlement. In the revised settlement, Google did agree not to share personal data with a copyright-royalty collection group, but ignored other significant privacy concerns. Google Books, of course, is not the only online service that implicates the traditional right to read and to otherwise access information freely, so whatever happens in the case, legislative reform is needed.