WASHINGTON, July 28, 2010 – Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation are worried about unclear consumer online privacy policies and the negative effects of targeted advertising.
Representatives from Apple, Facebook, Google, The Cato Institute, AT&T, and the Annenberg School for Communication overviewed their current privacy policies and tools, and outlined the future of their privacy controls.
Bud Tribble, from Apple Inc., said Apple builds privacy protection into its devices instead of asking consumers to add protection through downloading applications. He focused on their location-based services, such as GPS applications, which a user must authorize before the application will function. This type of opt-in service gives more control to the user than the more commonly-practiced opt-out licensing agreements.
Facebook’s chief technology officer, Bret Taylor, also agreed that giving users easy control over their privacy settings is essential since the people who use Facebook supply all of its content. “Individuals use social technologies to connect and share information, but they also play an important role in policing the medium itself,” said Taylor. He said Facebook tried to ensure familiarity with their privacy settings by requiring all users to navigate through a privacy transition tool, where they had to confirm or change their privacy settings.
Alma Whitten, privacy engineering lead at Google, said they were focused on building transparency and user controls into their services. She said their Dashboard tool allows consumers to easily see, edit, or delete information from their Google account. She said that while there had been a security mishap with Google’s StreetView service, none of the collected data was ever shared and Google is working on a solution to prevent further problems.
Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at The Cato Institute, agreed that privacy online was mostly a user control issue. He addressed targeted advertising, which he said makes users feel like they have lost some of that control over their personal information. However, he doubted whether direct privacy legislation would improve the online privacy climate. He said the current privacy policies, or “fair information practices,” are too complex and inconsistent to have a real effect. Mandated privacy notices have not made improvements either since they rely on consumers actually reading those notices, which they often do not.
Like Apple, Dorothy Attwood, chief privacy officer at AT&T said it is important to have privacy functions built in from the outset instead of leaving it up to consumers. She said AT&T had also consolidated 17 separate privacy policies into one with easy-to-understand language.
Joseph Turow, from The Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, said he was concerned about some of the proposed privacy solution. He said applications like Google Dashboard give users the impression that they have “the whole picture about their privacy,” when they really just have some controls over their Google accounts.
He was also concerned about social discrimination resulting from targeted advertisements and the way people would be reduced to a number instead of as a respected individual. He suggested a limit on the amount of information that an online presence could hold about an individual or household.
Sen. Kerry (D-Mass) said that the policies are just too confusing. He was also concerned about incorrect or out-of-context information from a user that could cost someone a job or health insurance.
National Plan Required For Consumer Privacy, Congresswoman says
April 1, 2021 — A Congresswoman from Washington State, who introduced federal legislation that would be the first national consumer privacy law if adopted, says the federal government is being outpaced by some states that are implementing their own consumer privacy legislation.
“There is a significant problem with consumer privacy in the US,” said Representative Suzan Delbene on Tuesday during a New Democratic Network event. Delbene introduced her Information Transparency, and Personal Data Control Act, a wide ranging federal privacy legislation, on March 10. Delbene is the vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and is the chair of the House New Democrat Coalition caucus.
There is no federal data privacy law, which has forced some states to pursue their own consumer data policies. That includes California and, recently, Virginia. Some have said the concern is that there will be a patchwork of different privacy legislation that may end up just confusing Americans.
“We need a uniform set of rights for consumers and businesses standards to follow in the digital world,” DelBene said.
The bill states that companies must provide privacy polies in plain language, must allow users to opt-in for personal information gathering, must disclose who personal information is being shared with, and must submit to privacy audits every two years. The federal law would also give the government the ability to preempt existing state laws.
Simon Rosenberg, president of New Democrat Network, said about the bill that, “together, we have a lot of work to do in the coming years to restore the promise of the Internet. One of the areas of greatest need is creating a single working privacy standard for the United States.
“In her bill, the approach Representative DelBene takes to protecting Americans’ privacy is smart, measured, and will undoubtedly be highly influential in shaping the approach Congress takes in the days ahead. It is a very welcome addition to the vital debate underway about our digital future,” Rosenberg added.
The purpose of this bill is to ensure that privacy policies are transparent and clear. “Many consumers are given lots of information with lots of legal terms, that leads them to click the accept button without knowing what they have signed up for,” DelBene said.
“There is an urgent need for consumers to understand what data is being shared,” she added. “We want to make sure there is enforcement. The law says that this will be the responsibility of the Federal Trade Commission, so the FTC must have the resources to do this.
“I think my bill is focused on privacy specifically because I think it is foundational. We build on important things, such as AI, facial recognition, and all the other issues we need to address. If we don’t start addressing the issues of data privacy, it will be hard to imagine how it will the expansion of laws to address a broader set of issues that need to get ahead of.”
Congresswoman DelBene believes the bill can be bipartisan, but she wants to make sure Congress understands its importance. “I’m not sure Congress understands these issues, so it takes a collective effort to push it forward.”
DelBene says she’s confident that Congress will follow the bill, despite many congresspeople who she said are hesitant to take that first step.
Attach Strings To Data Collection To Combat Surveillance Capitalism, Experts Suggest
March 29, 2021 – Laws addressing how much data can be collected should be among new regulations that must ensure data collection from big technology companies doesn’t harm Americans, according to a March 17 panel of academics at the South by Southwest conference.
The era of corporate self-regulation is now up, said Marietje Schaake of the Standford University Cyber Policy Center and panelist at SXSW conference discussing the “techno-democratic” approach to Big Tech, including what to do about surveillance capitalism.
Surveillance capitalism is an economic system centered on commodifying personal data with the core purpose of profit-making.
“We have heard many pledges, many promises, and good intention offers for solutions for self-regulatory initiatives. And the time is out for those,” she said.
Schaake said it is time the government attach consequences to data collection to the detriment of the public and to set clear limits on collection practices.
“We have tried for too long, and it has led to several distractions and lost time to make sure that the rule of law is leading and that there are enforceable accountable, transparent expectations placed on these companies,” she said.
Joan Donovan, a social scientist at the Harvard Kennedy School, said what’s critical is how much data tech companies should be allowed to collect and under what conditions should they sell it to ensure rights aren’t violated.
“The tech sector as it is built now, relies on harvesting so much data about an individual that their products and the entire economy they are built on could not exist” if there were robust rights and privacy protections in place, Donovan said.
She said the discussion about regulating these businesses should include moving from a focus on protecting enterprise to protecting human rights.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Calls for Update to Children’s Privacy Legislation
March 11, 2021 – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., on Thursday called for an update to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act at subcommittee hearing on “Kids Online During COVID: Child Safety in an Increasingly Digital Age.”
“The challenges children face online existed before the pandemic, but it’s only gotten worse,” he said.
Visiting in person with extended family and friends have so far become a thing of the past as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Many other in-person activities have been replaced with video games, social media, and other video services.
Kids’ screen time has doubled during the pandemic, said Pallone. The effects of too much screen time can increase instances of anxiety, sleep deprivation, obesity, and cyber bullying, he said.
The increased screen time due to the pandemic has turned consumers into victims of what he called harassment and dark pattern manipulation led by advertisers. Children cannot defend themselves like adults in managing these predatory practices, he said.
“Despite laws to protect children’s privacy, data collection and tracking of children is disturbingly prevalent.” He went on to criticize many apps targeting children on mobile devices are notorious for collecting personal information, which is then bought and sold, resulting in advertising meant to manipulate children.
He said that digital ad spending specifically targeting children was expected to reach $1.7 billion this year. COPPA, which hasn’t been updated since 2013, needs to be updated because, he said, internet companies have since continued to target children.
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