Wednesday, January 6, 2010

DC: discussing privacy in public

I spent a few days in Washington DC in December. While I was there, I slipped into a public workshop hosted by the Federal Trade Commission on privacy. The content of the workshop has already been covered:

Coming from Europe, I found this sort of transparency and public consultation by a privacy regulator novel and refreshing. The FTC regularly holds public workshops, where it invites stakeholders from many different sectors (academia, advocacy, government, private sector) to discuss problems in privacy and potential regulatory responses to them. This is meant to help the FTC staff understand the issues that it will grapple with. Moreover, the FTC often issues its guidelines in draft form, for the sake of public review and comment, before finalizing them, as it has done with its privacy guidelines for online behavioral advertising principles:

So, in my mind, I couldn't help but contrast all this with the practices of one of the world's other great bodies of privacy regulators, the EU Working Party. The Working Party has never, to my knowledge, held a public workshop. It has never opened any of its meetings to the public, and indeed, it is very rare that anyone from outside the closed world of Data Protection Authorities to be invited to attend one of its meetings. It publishes almost no information about its agendas, other than a few sentences to describe its annual work program. It never publishes its opinions in draft form for public review and comment before finalizing them. And finally, since it only issues "opinions", rather than enforceable decisions, its work has never, to my knowledge, been subject to judicial review. Seeing the transparency of the Federal Trade Commission's public workshop in action made me appreciate the benefits of transparent and open government.


Chrsitian Bernieri said...

Hallo Peter,
I'm a privacy consultant, working in Europe and expecially in Italy.
I follow your blog and your work. I don't agree with your all the times but it is obvious and normal.

This time, i want to write you.
Can you be influenced by your recent law experience with privacy in Italy? I think so.

I'm afraid for your troubles but what you are writing is wrong.

Alle European Privacy Autority, works in a very trasparent way. Italian autority, for exemple, proposes public consultation for every relevant matters concerning privacy. It is frequently in contraddiction with the Governament autority and it is the most evident sign of indipendence.

I'm very worried thinking that US privacy laws are directly influenced by lobbys, corporations and similar... Our laws are influence3d by people. Isn't it better?

Best regards
Chrsitian B

Álvaro Del Hoyo said...

I agree entirely.
Anyway, Agencia Española de Protección de Datos has taken some good steps on that way, but there are still more to take.