Could Obama’s Privacy Plan Threaten the Internet?

Adam Thierer speaks exclusively on Obama's "let's be more like Europe" privacy plan

The ongoing debate over online privacy is in the spotlight once again. However, this time, it’s the White House that’s at the center of the controversy.
Last week, the Obama Administration announced a privacy plan that would give consumers more control over their data. In the first-ever introduction of federal privacy policy, the White House proposal calls for Internet companies, privacy groups, law enforcement agencies, and state attorneys general to work together and develop voluntary standards to ensure the highest protections for consumer data.
Would you like to see consumer privacy protected through regulation? Why or why not? Share your thoughts here.
Barack Obama, President of the United StatesIn the White Paper released by the Administration, President Obama wrote:
One thing should be clear, even though we live in a world in which we share personal information more freely than in the past, we must reject the conclusion that privacy is an outmoded value. It has been at the heart of our democracy from its inception, and we need it now more than ever.
Prior to the White House’s announcement, WebProNews spoke with Jules Polonetsky, the Director of the Future of Privacy Forum, who predicted that privacy legislation would ultimately come to the U.S.
“I think it’s clear that we are… eventually going to have a privacy law. The question is, whether it’s gonna be a good one,” he said. “If we are able to craft privacy law that supports innovation [and] gives users more protection, we’ll win.”
The framework from the President consists of 4 parts including a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, a multi-stakeholder process to determine how the rights will apply to the context of business, an adequate enforcement model, and a commitment to strengthen interoperability between the privacy standards in the U.S. and its global partners. The “Bill of Rights” specifically offers the following provisions:
  • Individual Control: Consumers have a right to exercise control over what personal data organizations collect from them and how they use it.
  • Transparency: Consumers have a right to easily understandable information about privacy and security practices.
  • Respect for Context: Consumers have a right to expect that organizations will collect, use, and disclose personal data in ways that are consistent with the context in which consumers provide the data.
  • Security: Consumers have a right to secure and responsible handling of personal data.
  • Access and Accuracy: Consumers have a right to access and correct personal data in usable formats, in a manner that is appropriate to the sensitivity of the data and the risk of adverse consequences to consumers if the data are inaccurate.
  • Focused Collection: Consumers have a right to reasonable limits on the personal data that companies collect and retain.
  • Accountability: Consumers have a right to have personal data handled by companies with appropriate measures in place to assure they adhere to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.
The “Bill of Rights” would be governed by multi-stakeholders, which the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is heading up. The proposal also asks Congress to grant the FTC and state attorneys general the power to enforce the “Bill of Rights.”
In order to promote global interoperability, the White House hopes to create “mutual recognition and enforcement cooperation” between countries. The idea is to make it easier for companies that transfer data across national borders.
Although the plan comes at time when privacy issues are at an all-time high, it is not completely welcomed by all. Privacy groups are pleased with it for the most part, but some of them have expressed concerns over the enforcement of it.
Adam Thierer, who is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, also raised other concerns in an interview with WebProNews. According to him, the White House’s privacy framework is very similar to Europe’s privacy model, which he does not think is a good path for the U.S.
“If we went down the path that the Obama Administration’s proposing here, we would, in a fairly aggressive and comprehensive way, be establishing a new privacy regulatory framework for America,” he said.
Thierer told us the framework presents some good policies at the core, but he fears the “unintended consequences.” As he explained, the U.S. has traditionally taken a very bottom-up approach to privacy, while Europe has taken a more top-down approach driven by data directives and central data agencies.
“The path that Europe took a dozen years ago, which is again more heavy-handed and regulatory in focus, has led to a situation that’s very different for a lot of online providers in Europe to do business as effectively as they can here,” said Thierer.
If the plan is fully executed, he believes the cost of doing business for many companies would increase since most of them make money through behavioral advertising methods. Data aggregation and other forms of behavioral advertising provide the revenue to back free services such as Web-based email and social networks that consumers depend everyday. If regulation limits these tactics, not only could these services result in paid products, but it could also decrease future innovations.
“Information is the fuel that powers the digital economy,” Thierer pointed out.
Another concern that Thierer has is that regulation could negatively impact U.S. competitiveness. He believes that America’s lack of regulation has resulted in multiple global leaders in the digital marketplace.
“It’s tough for me to name any major European companies in the social media or digital space that are global leaders,” he said. “I don’t think that’s an accident.”
He went on to say that the U.S. fears if it doesn’t conform to some of the guidelines that other nations do, it would not have a voice, which would give Europe more control over U.S. businesses. Thierer admits that this is a “fair concern” but suggests the U.S. should defend and promote its practices instead of adopting the others.
Under the White House’s proposal, agencies, particularly the FTC and the Department of Commerce, would have to be very aggressive in making sure companies were abiding by the policies. Interestingly, we’ve already seen an increased effort in this regard as both Google and Facebook have experienced a lot of scrutiny recently.
Google has especially been under fire for its new privacy policy that is set to go into effect on March 1. But, Thierer told us the companies that collect data without permission should be the greater focus of the framework.
The proposal indicated that privacy controls were needed for “maintaining consumer trust in network technologies,” “sustaining the trust that nurtures Internet commerce and fuels innovation,” and for ensuring greater “participation in a democratic society.” However, as Thierer pointed out, it doesn’t appear that consumers are shying away from sites like Facebook or Google.
While he thinks the FTC and other agencies should actively enforce laws to protect consumers, he is concerned that an increased regulation would only result in harm.
“Whether we like it or not, the Federal Trade Commission is sort of becoming America’s de facto data agency,” said Thierer.
“It’s clear that there’s a lot more oversight on the way from Washington on privacy,” he added.
Incidentally, the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) has spoken out in support of the Administration’s proposal. More than likely, the alliance is making sure that it has a seat at the table when policies such as a “Do Not Track” are implemented.
Thierer told us a better approach to privacy concerns would be a more selective or “as needed” type of solution. For example, he believes narrow laws pertaining to specific sectors would be better and would help to develop the marketplace.
Thierer also pointed out that consumers need to take more responsibility for their actions online. He thinks educating consumers about their digital footprint and how they can have “better data hygiene” is a very important part of solving privacy issues.
“I think that the personal responsibility angle deserved more than the one paragraph that it got in the Obama Administration’s report,” he said.
In the proposal, the Administration has asked Congress to adopt the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and give the FTC and state attorneys general the power to enforce them. However, both Thierer and Polonetsky told us that it was very unlikely that anything would happen in this regard this year given the election year and other pressing issues. In other words, it looks like this debate is only going to continue.

Sony Xperia P & Xperia U Announced

Sony Xperia P & U

 Mobile Communications has announced 2 new phones for their Xperia lineup; the P model and the U models. These 2 new phones will join the Xperia S in the Xperia NXT series. While these phones are being released side by side they are indeed 2 different models with a couple of shared specs. They both feature Reality Display powered by Mobile BRAVIA Engine for razor-sharp clarity, along with fast capture to take the camera from sleep to snap in a little over a second. Also, both smartphones come with powerful 1 GHz dual-core processors. they also both will feature the Playstation Suite as part of Sony’s continued push to expand their Sony Entertainment Network.
The Xperia P features the WhiteMagic display technology for the first time on a Sony phone. WhiteMagic display technology is a new feature that makes sure you have the brightest display possible no matter where you are. The new Whitemagic also features smart power efficency that helps conserve battery life. The Xperia P will also offer a smart dock technology turning your phone into a entertainment hub for your living room. It also features an 8 MP camera and will be launching with Gingerbreadbut you will be able to upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich during the second quarter of 2012.
The Xperia U features xLoud™ and Sony 3D surround sound audio technology integrated into the music player, with the ability to stream your music to wireless speakers with the press of a button using DLNA. The Xperia U also features a transparent element that changes color based on the picture you are looking at in the gallery or the album cover you are viewing while listening to music. The U also has removable caps that you can change the color of to fit your mood or style. It also features a 5 MP camera and will also launch with Gingerbread and you will be able to update to Ice Cream Sandwich during the 2nd Quarter of 2012.

Oscars Red Carpet: Twitter Reaction

What people are saying

The pre-Oscars Red Carpet extravaganza just hit the airwaves, and naturally it didn’t take long for Twitter to explode with commentary. We’ll pull out some of the highlights here, up to the show.
Side note: It’s good to see that the Rob Zombie Woolite commercial is still in the rotation for tonight’s event:

Here’s the Twitter reaction. Refresh regularly for updates:
Afro Chris Rock? #Oscars 1 minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
Chris Rock just come from set of New Jack City 2#Oscars 35 seconds ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
Tom Hanks had an evil twin goatee. Keep an eye on him. #Oscars 36 seconds ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
Okay, one more.. Natalie Portman looks great! Anyone else notice her bloodshot eyes? #Oscars 57 seconds ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
what happened to Sandra Bullocks hair???#Oscars 31 seconds ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
Oh Angelina your bony self is perfection as always. Thank you for gracing us with your presence. #Oscars 40 seconds ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
Cameron Diaz dress were her nips showing? #Oscars 1 minute ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
#DEAD RT @capricecrane: Brad Pitt’s hairdresser gave him “The Rachel.” And it all comes full-circle.#Oscars 1 minute ago via TweetDeck ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
Brad Pitt is so insanely smokin hot, like staring at the sun – so powerful you have to look away. #oscars#redcarpet 51 seconds ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
BRAD PITT!!!!! I just swooned! #oscars#bestdressedbutneedstowearless 34 seconds ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
I would have no problem being in a sandwich with George Clooney. #Oscars 1 minute ago via Twitter for iPhone ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
George Clooney makes a sandwich joke with Stacy and Robin Roberts #oscars, he’s hoping to win best song? 1 minute ago via HootSuite ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
Bradley Cooper debuts a startling Selleck mustache and an equally startling Chris Walken impression backstage at the #Oscars. 31 seconds ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
Best answer when asked “Who are you wearing?” comes from Zach Galifianakis who responded by saying “Garanimals.” #Oscars 4 minutes ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
Jonah Hill is skinny! Zach Galifianakis is skinny! WTF? Are there mandatory jumping jacks to do@JuddApatow films? #Oscars 1 minute ago via WhoSay ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
JLo, I love you but your style hasn’t been street or “hip-hoppy” as you say since you dumped Diddy. #oscars 12 minutes ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
Umm is Gwyneth Paltrow wearing a magic cape? feel like she’s got some tricks behind that cape #oscars 5 minutes ago via UberSocial for iPhone ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
J-Lo appears to be wearing a test pattern. My eyes are going funny.
#Oscars 2 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
This is the worst #Oscars open ever. 2 minutes ago via TweetDeck ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
Nick Nolte = drunk 31 seconds ago via Twitter for iPhone ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
nick nolte looks confused… 2 minutes ago via Seesmic twhirl ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
Loved loved LOVED The Dictator spillage on Ryan Seacrest. Sasha be an O.G. of hee hee #Oscars 1 minute ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
starting a petition to replace Ryan Seacrest with Tim Gunn on #Eredcarpet #oscars 1 minute ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
Gary Oldman’s mom is so sweet! I’m a sucker for the Mominees montage. #oscars 2 minutes ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
We’re all just waiting for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie now #Oscars 1 minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
George Clooney’s mom looks like his peer. Amazing.#Oscars 2 minutes ago via TweetDeck ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
I wish Kelly Osbourne would stop interrupting Gulliana Rancic. #oscars 2 minutes ago via Twitter for Android ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
I think Christopher Plummer is a very handsome and elegant actor. #Oscars 5 minutes ago via Twittelator ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
OMG! @JLo looks absolutely GORGEOUS! She looks beautiful!! I will always love her. #Oscars #ERedCarpet 1 minute ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
Sacha Baron Cohen has officially crossed the line. Ryan Seacrest was PISSED. But you have to admit: that was TV GOLD #Eredcarpet #Oscars 2 minutes ago via Tweetbot for iOS ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
RYAN SEACREST GOT PUNKED #oscars 1 minute ago via TweetDeck ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
WTF just happened to Ryan Seacrest on the REd CArpet? What was in the urn? #Eredcarpet#oscars 1 minute ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
Jessica Chastain is gorgeous in McQueen. #Oscars 5 minutes ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
I really like Busy Phillips hair. Too bad she is just the hanger-on #Oscars 1 minute ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
haha Rooney Mara. So cold. I love it. Real life Lisbeth#oscars 1 minute ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
God, this chick on @KTLA absolutely SUCKS at interviews. She has insulted more stars than Rickt Gervais! #Oscars #redcarpet 37 seconds ago via Echofon ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
The stars keep coming down the #redcarpet. George Clooney looks good, but Stact Keibler looks better! #Oscars 1 minute ago via TweetDeck ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” #quote by Mae West #Oscars 18 hours ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
I can’t lie, I’m not totally sold on Rooney Mara’s gown..#Oscars 3 minutes ago via&nbrp;Twitter for iPhone ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
Rooney Mara watched Daria before hitting the Red Carpet. #oscars 4 minutes ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto
Ok, figured it out: A-listers = white, black, silver, gold & red. B-list & lower = colors
#oscars 5 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto
I can’t be the only person hoping for a City Slickers tribute tonight, can I? #Oscars 9 minutes ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto