Just weeks after the Obama administration released its blueprint to improve consumer privacy and ensure that the Internet remains an engine for innovation and economic growth, Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is moving forward to put the plan into practice.
NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling told an audience at the Hudson Institute yesterday that the administration supports enacting the blueprint’s "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights" into law, but can make progress without waiting for Congress to act. He said the agency will promptly begin convening stakeholders to develop enforceable codes of conduct that specify how the broad principles in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights apply in specific business contexts.
“The multistakeholder approach for privacy is viable without new legislation, and getting it up and running is an important focus for NTIA right now,” Strickling said.
Shortly after release of the administration’s privacy blueprint, NTIA invited public comment on which consumer privacy issue it should designate as the first topic for development of a code of conduct. NTIA also sought comment on the process stakeholders should use in working together to develop codes. The agency is now reviewing input from a wide range of stakeholders.
“There are two important factors to consider in selecting the first topic,” Strickling said. “First, the issue should be of current concern to companies and consumers. . . . There should be sufficient definition in the relevant technologies, markets, and consumer privacy interests to allow for a meaningful discussion.”
“Second,” Strickling added, “we have to walk before we can run. That is, the issue needs to be relatively discrete, perhaps limited to addressing one or two elements of the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights as it applies to a particular industry sector.” He said this limited initial approach will enable participants to develop a workable multistakeholder process.
“I am hopeful that NTIA and stakeholders can work together quickly and respectfully in an initial meeting to set the rules of the road that will allow them to tackle substantive issues,” Strickling said.
Strickling next discussed the administration’s three guiding principles for the privacy multistakeholder process: open participation, transparency and consensus as a basis for stakeholders’ decisions. He also emphasized that consumer privacy is an increasingly important trade issue.
“Companies that do business globally face a complex set of privacy challenges, and complying with disparate privacy laws across the world imposes significant costs on U.S. enterprises. Moreover, these laws are in flux,” Strickling said. That is why the administration is working toward greater interoperability of international privacy approaches, he explained.
Strickling closed his remarks by noting that these important privacy challenges cannot be met without the private sector’s energy and commitment.
“The administration has provided a blueprint, and NTIA will convene stakeholders, but the expertise necessary to create these codes of conduct lies in the private sector,” Strickling told the audience. “NTIA is eager to begin convening stakeholders to protect consumers, provide businesses with greater certainty, and allow continuing innovations that benefit our economy.”