Can Government Solve Online Privacy Battle?
Government regulations on Internet privacy are overdue, and likely to occur this year, according to one expert.
Speaking at the Jan. 20 Digital Privacy Forum in New YOrk, Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, argued that the current battles being fought over digital privacy require intelligent government intervention.
There are a lot of people saying if we have privacy regulations, it slows innovation," Rotenberg said. "I think with smart regulation and forward-looking principles that seek to promote innovation, we can have some of the most brilliant insight and solutions possible.
Rotenberg cited as an example the innovative strides made in the automobile industry as a result of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations mandating that automakers move away from fossil fuels and boost gas mileage to 35 miles per gallon by 2020.
He addressed the general unease among the public about the new forms of online advertising.
Rotenberg singled out Google which is under a Federal Communications Commission investigation for capturing private homeowner information with its Street View feature and Facebook, which will in the next few weeks allow app developers to access users' mobile phone numbers and addresses.
Facebook has a very interesting relationship with privacy, he said.
Rotenberg believes it's the government's responsibility to mediate these tenuous relationships in a way that addresses privacy concerns and stays current with the ever-developing Internet.
The collection of personal data wasn't possible in analog world, but all of that has changed, he said. Less than a year ago, hardly anyone had heard of 'Do Not Track,' and here we are a year later, and members of Congress are backing it and privacy advocates seem to favor it.
Do Not Track is a Federal Trade Commission proposal that would allow Internet users to protect their privacy by preventing online marketers from tracking their Web surfing habits.
Rotenberg said that the view in Washington is that online privacy legislation is overdue. He expects several groundbreaking decisions to be made in 2011, including Do Not Track, updated wiretap laws, updated U.S. privacy laws that will mirror the European Union's policies, and the protection of sensitive online medical data.
I think we're going to have a fascinating year, it's likely to be the biggest year for privacy, all the factors are there, Rotenberg said.
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