David Mack -- Online privacy could well be the buzzwords of 2010. With ongoing FTC roundtables,
legislation and a flurry of questions about what all this openness is doing
to our society we’re guaranteed to see changes in the way we share online
information this year.
But who is best equipped to provide meaningful solutions? Can industry do it alone (and fast enough) or will the government deliver a one size fits all answer?
Kim Hart posted
a story in today’s Hillicon Valley
that explores the European Commissions’ call for social networks to add privacy
protections for teens. U.S. based
companies are undoubtedly watching the EC’s comments closely to see if they are
followed up with teeth.
Juliana Gruenwald reported
additional details on the Tech
Daily Dose blog.
Not surprisingly, the call to action is being framed as a way to protect children online.
For now, the EC is working proactively with major social
networking sites to establish a series of best
practices that will enable communities to grow safely. This partnership is a good example of
government and industry growing together, but it is not always the case.
In the final days of the 2009 session, under the guise of protecting children, the Maine legislature passed a bill that would have made it illegal for minors to share personal information with a company without first providing verifiable parental consent.
While the law was created with the best of intentions, a
broad variety of organizations, including NetChoice,
the Maine Press Association and the Maine Independent Colleges Association
immediately recognized the unintended harm such a broad law would have on free
speech and services we take for granted – including notification of volunteer
opportunities or college prep services.
The U.S. District Court of Maine ultimately found the law to be an unacceptable violation of first amendment rights, but the episode was a good reminder of what can go wrong when industry and policy makers fail to collaborate.
The year ahead will present many opportunities for collaboration. We’ll all benefit from a focus on industry and policy maker partnership and vigilance against knee jerk legislative solutions.