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Privacy & Data

Thoughts from State of the Net 2010

Wednesday's State of the Net 2010 conference was a significant opportunity to move Internet policy forward. The notion that we must continue to keep the Internet open, innovative and free was reinforced in many of the day’s breakout sessions that I attended. I would like to highlight two examples here. First, during the “Clouding Internet Policy” panel, CDT’s Jim Dempsey emphasized the need to expand traditional Fourth Amendment protections against government surveillance of data in the cloud. Of particular significance is the need to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (commonly referred to as ECPA) to strengthen protections for data stored in the cloud, including non-public social networking information, mobile location information, and transactional data. For example, although I would like to believe I have the same high level of privacy protection when I create a document on Google Docs as I do on my personal computer’s physical hard drive, I probably do not in reality. That this may, in fact, be the case is particularly shocking and disturbing. If we do not properly protect data in the cloud, consumer confidence in cloud computing will unfortunately suffer. CDT is working hard to update ECPA so it properly reflects today’s state of the net.
Second, the need to develop trust in an open and free Internet was a primary focus of the “Debating the Framework for Online Privacy” session that I attended in the afternoon. During this panel discussion, CDT’s Ari Schwartz emphasized the need to establish comprehensive privacy protections for personal information and I do not think many would disagree with this goal.  CDT proposed such a comprehensive framework in its first set of comments to the FTC’s “Exploring Privacy” roundtable series and in a policy post, and we will continue to press forward to ensure adequate consumer privacy protections in 2010. We, along with many other stakeholders, look forward to carefully reviewing Representative Boucher’s draft consumer privacy bill when it is released in the near future. Ultimately, consumers expect companies will keep their information private and we must ensure companies meet this expectation.
I hope everyone enjoyed our live broadcast of the conference along with the live tweeting. Let’s continue to push forward an open, innovative and free Internet agenda in 2010!