Protecting the online privacy of consumers has been a major public-policy issue for many years. Now it’s urgent.
Poll after poll over the last two decades demonstrate that consumers take their privacy seriously and are concerned about how their personal information is collected and used online. Seventy percent of consumers are uncomfortable with online tracking of their web activities and 77% are uncomfortable with companies’ selling personal data for advertising purposes. Every year Congress considers national legislation on consumer privacy.
While it has yet to enact legislation, states are increasingly stepping in as evidenced by California’s passage of a privacy law this past June. In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is now being enforced, affecting every company that collects or processes data from European citizens.
Given the importance of this issue to consumers, it makes sense for publishers and other businesses to make their handling of personal information a way to differentiate their online services from others, and particularly the large platform and social-media companies. Recent polling shows that a majority of consumers do not trust companies such as Facebook, Twitter or Google to protect their personal data. Companies offering stronger privacy protections to their online customers may be able to attract more traffic to their online services from consumers who might otherwise simply obtain the same information from the large platforms.
The three groups are using an open, multistakeholder process that will include a series of meetings and working groups facilitated by Lawrence Strickling, a lawyer and former U.S. Commerce Department administrator who heads the Internet Society’s Collaborative Governance Project. It has the working title, “Internet Multistakeholder Privacy Initiative.”
The public goal is to develop and publish privacy policies and standards with the input and participation of leading stakeholders and thought leaders from the U.S. and the world. Governance of the policies and standards will be overseen by the ITEGA, one of the participants in the process. ITEGA, a 501(c)3 formed last year, seeks to create a public-interest governance structure for Internet trust, identity, privacy and information commerce.
A multistakeholder process convenes stakeholders representing the key interests on an issue or problem. These stakeholders can come from business, academia, the technical community, civil society and government. ISOC’s Collaborative Governance Project is committed to facilitating such convenings with the focus on action—solving problems and developing norms on a consensus basis.
The ideal multistakeholder process has the following attributes:
- Stakeholder-driven: Stakeholders determine the process and decisions, from agenda setting to workflow, rather than simply fulfilling an advisory role;
- Open: Any stakeholder may participate and the process includes and integrates the viewpoints of a diverse range of stakeholders;
- Transparent: All stakeholders and the public have access to deliberations, creating an environment of trust, legitimacy, and accountability; and
- Consensus-based: Outcomes are consensus-based, arrived at by compromise, and are a win-win for the greatest number or diversity of stakeholders.
At the outset, LMC members and other experts are developing a draft, working “strawman” proposal discussed at a first plenary session in Chicago Sept. 28-29, 2018. Based on the outcome of the first plenary, smaller working groups may be organized to address specific aspects of the process intersessionally or at a second plenary planned for Jan. 15-16, 2019 in New York city. These groups can be supported by experts who will provide data, sample language, and other research assistance to the working groups.
Conclusion / Next step
Publishers and other stakeholders wishing to participate in and support the multistakeholder privacy-governance standards process may contact any of the principals below.
For THE Local Media Consortium:
Chris Hendricks, President
For ISOC’s Collaborative Governance Project:
Lawrence Strickling, Project Director
Bill Densmore, Executive Director