Privacy and Security TidBits

Neelie Kroes on Online Privacy

On October 4, Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission and commissioner for the Digital Agenda, delivered the 2011 Guglielmo Marconi Lecture at the Lisbon Council in Brussels.

While speaking about the larger topic of The Digital Agenda for Europe, Neelie Kroes touched upon online privacy issues.

She first mentioned that having to comply with 27 different data protection regimes for cloud computing in the EU is daunting and bad for business and urged for more harmonization.

Ms. Kroes reiterated the need for sound privacy rules, based on three principles:

1. Transparency: “So that the citizen knows what the deal is.” This should be self-evident.

2. Fairness: Citizens should not be forced to or tricked into sharing data with others.

3. Control: The citizen should be the one deciding whether to share his/her data or not, and should be able to do so in a simple way.

Ms.Kroes stressed that, although the citizen’s right to privacy should not be sacrificed to economic interests, neither should legitimate economic interests be damaged by insisting on a too inflexible and cumbersome implementation of privacy rules. She therefore challenged the web industry to agree by next June on standards for Do Not Track technologies.

These standards should give citizens more control on who can track them online and there should be clear and user friendly ways of recording and enforcing those user preferences.

Ms. Kroes also repeated that one of her priorities is to give children a safe, respectful and responsible online environment. She said that as a society, we have a responsibility towards vulnerable people, and children are especially vulnerable online.

A day later, the exact same sentiment was echoed across the pond by another mother, House Commerce Committee Chairman Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) during the House Commerce subcommittee hearing on “Protecting Children’s Privacy in an Electronic World,” which dealt with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) proposed revisions of the  Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).She said that protecting kids from the Internet’s dark side was “one of her top priorities” as a mother and a legislator. That concern was shared by the legislators and witnesses at the hearing.