The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is set to host the first of several meetings seeking input for its effort to develop new codes of conduct for handling private consumer date on the Internet and mobile networks.
The meeting, scheduled for July 12 at the U.S. Department of Commerce building in Washington D.C., is open to all and will focus primarily on mobile application privacy.
NTIA expects that the initial meeting will attract industry stakeholders, rights groups and Internet marketers looking to offer views on privacy issues related to the use, consumption and sharing of consumer data stored on mobile devices and shared by mobile applications.
The sponsored meetings over the coming months are designed to let stakeholders jointly develop Internet privacy codes that are acceptable to most privacy and consumer groups, Internet companies and online marketing firms.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be responsible for enforcing the codes of conduct that result from the multi-stakeholder effort.
The initiative stems from a 60-page Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights released by the Obama Administration in February.
The document spelled out proposals that would give consumers more control over how their personal data is collected, used, stored and shared by websites and online advertisers.
The White House created the document as part of an effort to require companies to limit their collection of personal data, to protect any sensitive data and to give consumers the right to access and to correct personal data collected by Internet companies.
The final document would provide consumers with clear and easily understandable information about their privacy practices. according to the White House plan.
Instead of calling for new privacy regulations, Obama's Bill of Rights proposed a multi-stakeholder process for developing broadly acceptable standards.
Reaction to the multi-stakeholder proposal has been mixed.
While privacy advocates and consumer rights groups have generally supported the effort, they have also expressed considerable skepticism over the process set out by the administration. Many say they fear that Internet companies will hijack the process and that the final document will provide few real privacy protections for consumers.
In comments submitted to the NTIA in recent weeks, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and numerous other consumer groups have questioned the effectiveness of the multi-stakeholder process and of self-regulatory approaches in general.
The groups continue to maintain that meaningful privacy protections can only result from strong legislation.
EPIC for instance, suggests that the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) under which federal agencies create new rules and regulations, offers a better approach for dealing with online privacy that a multi-stakeholder approach.
"The APA is a much better, fairer, and more transparent way to solicit public input in agency decision making process," Marc Rotenberg, EPIC's executive director said today.
"Everyone's comments, whether from a DC lobbyist with a high-powered law firm or a citizen in a rural community with a real concern about the actions of government, would be given equal weight," he added. "One of the consequences of the NTIA approach is to make it more difficult for those who are not Washington insiders to participate in the process."
Meanwhile, industry groups like the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Direct Marketers Association (DMA) have expressed doubts about the process for different reasons.
These organizations claim that the multi-stakeholder process duplicates industry efforts at self-regulation that have gone on for several years.
The industry groups claim self-regulatory efforts yield effective codes of conduct and accountability and urge the NTIA to review these codes before trying to develop new ones.
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