Administration Supports Privacy Legislation
March 25, New Haven, CT - Leslie Harris will participate in a symposium entitled "From Mad Men to Mad Bots: Advertising in the Digital Age" at Yale Law School.
Consumer privacy legislation, online identity, health privacy, and Do Not Track are some of the issues CDT has been working on recently -- when we weren't partying. Last week, we held our annual networking gala in Washington. The massive turnout of tech industry leaders, government officials, and other shapers of Internet policy gave testament to the critical role that CDT fills. A big thanks to all our donors and working group participants, who make our work possible. If you missed it, there's always next year.
Administration Supports Privacy Legislation
In an historic announcement, the Obama Administration today (March 16) called on Congress to enact consumer privacy legislation. CDT praised the development, recognizing that a lot of dialogue and compromise will be needed to enact rules that provide the right mix of trust and flexibility. CDT's Internet Privacy Working Group will offer stakeholders a key forum for addressing those practical details.
Still Room -- and Need -- for Anonymity Online
As we have said many times already, identity is one of the key issues facing the Internet. In response to the challenges of cybersecurity and fraud, some argue that there should be no room for anonymity or pseudonymity online. Others argue that the user driven rise of the social Web is leading inexorably to an environment dominated by the sharing of identified data and activity.
CDT sees a different future, one that supports and values anonymity and pseudonymity alongside identified interactions. Of course, some transactions require identity, and many users are comfortable sharing information in an identified setting for some purposes. But other interactions may benefit from the use of a pseudonym (a rural teen who is questioning his sexuality may correspond pseudonymously with people who can offer support that his family cannot), and some may require anonymous connections (when human rights activists post photos of police abuses or collaborate to plan protests).
We were pleased therefore when Google recently affirmed its commitment to supporting individuals who want to browse the Web and share information without identifying themselves. As the various online identity initiatives move forward, CDT will be working with all stakeholders to ensure that users remain able to search for information, send and receive email, share, and collaborate without disclosing their identity to service providers, potential government monitors, and other users.
Privacy Rx for Online Health Advice
Social networking sites are increasingly important resources for individuals seeking health care information and support, according to a recent study by the California Healthcare Foundation (CHCF) and the Pew Research Center. However, as CDT's Harley Geiger points out, some online social networking services providing health information and support need to improve their privacy practices. For example, a study of ten networking sites geared toward individuals with diabetes found that only three had readable privacy policies, seven did not allow users to limit the visibility of their site profiles, and five featured advertisements from unknown sources. The study found almost no effort among the sites to ensure secure transmission and storage of data. Disturbingly, misinformation about cures for diabetes appeared on four of the ten sites. The findings highlight the relevance of one of CDT's major goals: to establish a comprehensive framework of privacy and security rules that provides strong protection to individuals' health information regardless of whether the entity collecting or using the data falls inside or outside of traditional health privacy laws.
Can Europe Succeed in Privacy Innovation?
The European Union is reexamining its Data Protection Directive, adopted in 1995. While the Directive's basic definition of privacy - drawn from the durable and widely recognized fair information practice principles -- remains valid, some of its core elements require major reworking. In a recent "Fellow Focus" article on the CDT blog, Omer Tene, an internationally renowned privacy expert, explains why "the process undertaken by the European Commission to review the current framework applicable to privacy and data protection is akin to speeding on a highway at 100 mph while looking at the rearview mirror." Tene's piece explores some of the salient flaws in the current EU Directive, including its bureaucratic processes, its unclear standard for consent, and its outdated or just plain unworkable definitions. The article affords a masterful overview of the issues facing Europe, and by extension the rest of the world, in developing privacy rules suited to today's technology.
CDT Gets Technical With Do Not Track
CDT's Alissa Cooper analyzed various proposed Do Not Track mechanisms in a detailed paper submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force, one of the Internet's chief standards setting bodies. The comments analyze the pros and cons of five mechansims: permanent opt-out cookies, cookie blocking, domain blocking, a Do Not Track HTTP header, and a Do Not Track Document Object Model (DOM) property. The comments review the potential need for standardization for each proposed solution.
As the Do Not Track concept draws policymaker and developer attention, CDT is working at the technical and legal levels to ensure that any and all DNT implementations are effective, efficient and consistent with the needs of both users and businesses.
From March 14-20, Cynthia Wong, Director of CDT's Project on Global Internet Freedom, will take questions online. In the past year, CDT has expanded its international engagement, working with Internet policy reformers around the world.
Alissa Cooper discusses the FCC's ongoing efforts to enable connectivity between Internet-based services and the emergency 911 infrastructure.
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