The US government unveiled its long-awaited data privacy plans Thursday and took a bold leap into what it hopes will be a new form of policy creation for Internet issues.
The headline topic was a new Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights that promises to give consumers control over what data is stored on them and the ways in which it is used.
In an era where the heads of two of the Internet’s biggest companies, Facebook and Google, have both declared (to paraphrase) that “privacy is dead”, the US government is keen to reflect its citizens’ very real concerns about what is done with their data online.
The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights came complete with White House backing and, crucially, the buy-in of industry – in this case, Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.
It was the culmination of nearly two years of work by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which had learnt from previous government efforts to impose constraints on user data and decided to build consensus around basic principles as a first step.
But the Bill of Rights – outlined in more detail below – is only the first stage in a process devised and pushed by Assistant Commerce Secretary Larry Strickling to provide policy solutions to complex Internet problems now and in the future.
The second stage is about to start and it will be that which decides the effectiveness of the data privacy plans, as well as the whole concept of the “multi-stakeholder model” for policy-making in the Internet era.