(Sean Garrett) FCC chair Julius Genachowski and his commission comrades are the It tech policy policy body in DC these days. Check out Julius at CES here. Or watch him give an interview in front of a handful of tech execs at the high cred San Francisco blog network GigaOm HQ last week...
All the attention toward the FCC is for good reason. From net neutrality to mobile spectrum to nettlesome questions of content restriction in a converged world, the commission is front and center on issues that impact a broad swath of Internet companies, telecom firms, cable entities, mobile operators and device manufacturers and, oh, consumers. Indeed, I think one of the smartest things Google did in the last few years was invest so relatively heavily in their FCC activities and relationships, The launch of the Nexus One now makes it so much clearer why I saw both founders and Eric Schmidt at a very small and casual Palo Alto industry reception of FCC commissioners two summers ago.
Yet in reading today a NYT blog post about their interview with FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz and Bureau of Consumer Protection chief David Vladeck, I was reminded that much of the Internet market also needs to keep their eyes on the FTC ball. In the piece, some serious hints are dropped that the times are a changing when it comes to consumer privacy on the Web. There have been plenty of hints before from Leibowitz, but these are some of the strongest. Excerpts:
Previous commissions had looked at privacy under the framework of whether consumers were harmed, and with the basis that companies must advise consumers about what they’re doing and obtain their consent, Mr. Leibowitz said. But companies “haven’t given consumers effective notice, so they can make effective choices,” he said.
Advise-and-consent “depended on the fiction that people were meaningfully giving consent,” Mr. Vladeck said. “The literature is clear” that few people read privacy policies, he said.
While first-party uses of data were generally within consumers’ reasonable expectations, he said, more questions arose around data brokers, data aggregators, social network, cloud computing and mobile marketing.
“Philosophically, we wonder if we’re moving to a post-disclosure era and what that would look like,” Mr. Vladeck said. “What’s the substitute for it?”
He said the commission was still looking into the issue, but it hoped to have an answer by June or July, when it plans to publish a report on the subject. Mr. Leibowitz gave a hint as to what might be included: “I have a sense, and it’s still amorphous, that we might head toward opt-in,” Mr. Leibowitz said.
Oh, and by the way, as the piece notes, the FTC is holding one of their series of roundtable that "explores privacy" in Berkeley on January 28. It's description...
The Federal Trade Commission will host a series of day-long public roundtable discussions to explore the privacy challenges posed by the vast array of 21st century technology and business practices that collect and use consumer data. Such practices include social networking, cloud computing, online behavioral advertising, mobile marketing, and the collection and use of information by retailers, data brokers, third-party applications, and other diverse businesses. The goal of the roundtables is to determine how best to protect consumer privacy while supporting beneficial uses of the information and technological innovation.
Pay attention folks.