WASHINGTON – Finding a balance between privacy rights and corporate interests will be the biggest roadblock to a consumer Internet bill of rights,speakers on all sides of the issue said Thursday.
“Customers have to understand the bargain,” Robert Quinn,AT&T senior vice president for federal regulatory,said.
Members of Congress,White House staff members and corporate officials spoke at the Capitol Thursday about making progress on a consumer bill of rights,based on the White House’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.
The event was sponsored by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
“Never has privacy been more important than today in the age of the Internet,” Danny Weitzner,the White House’s deputy chief technology officer for Internet policy,said.
The plan,released in February,emphasizes an increase in transparency for consumers,security of personal data and consumers knowing the context in which their data will be used.
In April 2011,Sen. John Kerry,D-Mass.,and Sen. John McCain,R-Ariz.,introduced the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011. The legislation would have directed the Federal Trade Commission to regulate anyone who tried to collect,use or store personal information of more than 5,000 people.
Weitzner said that,in an election year,it will be tough to pass the bill.
“I think it’s no secret to anyone that the political challenges in achieving privacy legislation are substantial,” he said.
Internet-related legislation has been debated during the past year. Neither the Stop Online Piracy Act nor the Protect IP Act passed. Sen. Joe Lieberman,I-Conn.,introduced a bill in February to increase cybersecurity. It focuses on protecting national intelligence and company information.
Quinn said legislators “had to be careful to not kill the golden goose,” the Internet’s ability to spur innovation.
John B. Morris,director of Internet policy at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration,said the industry is not interested in agreements that no one would use.
A lack in consumer trust also needs to be overcome,the speakers said.
“Customers need to feel like this is going to be a fair use of information,” Ioana Rusu,regulatory counsel for the Consumers Union,said.
Lillie Coney,associate director for the Electronic Privacy Information Center,said she agreed that an increase in transparency could help improve trust.
More than 60 percent of people said they would not want a search engine to collect information about their searches,according to a Pew Research Center report released last week. Almost three-fourths said they did not want search engines to keep track of searches to better personalize future search results.
Kerry said the debate surrounding online privacy is like Groundhogs Day.
“Every time we pick up the paper,there’s a big hue and cry and then,boom,nothing happens,and we still sit here without having put into place what we need to do,” he said.
Reach reporter Jordain Carney at [email protected] or 202-326-9861. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.