Commerce Department Holds Two Day Privacy Conference

(June 23, 1998)  The Department of Commerce is hosting a two day conference on privacy on the Internet in Washington DC on June 23 and 24.  Speakers and participants will include Secretary William Daley, Ester Dyson, industry representatives, privacy advocates, and others.

Related Website: NTIA's Privacy Conference Information.

Congressional committees, advocacy groups, and government agencies have been investigating and reporting on privacy problems in cyberspace for years.  On June 4 the Federal Trade Commission held a press conference in Washington DC to denounce websites that collect information from individuals and then sell or abuse that information without notice or consent.  The FTC is also seeking to parlay its condemnation of privacy violations into increased FTC authority to regulate the Internet. 

In contrast, the Clinton administration, and the Commerce Department specifically, have advocated and encouraged industry self-regulation.

A Department of Commerce release described the conference as follows:

"The explosive growth of the Internet has given way to increased privacy concerns. Protection of privacy regarding personal information is critical to the success of on-line commerce - if business on the Internet is to flourish, protection of personal privacy must be assured. The U.S. Department of Commerce is hosting a two-day meeting for debate and dialogue that will include members of the academic community, industry representatives, privacy advocates, public interest groups and Washington policymakers to discuss:

The event is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Office of International Affairs.  It will be held in the Department of Commerce Auditorium at 14th and Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.  The meeting is open to the public.


DAY 1 - June 23, 1998 

9:00 - 9:30 am.  Welcoming remarks.  Secretary of Commerce William Daley.

9:30 - 11:15 am. Setting the Stage for Thinking Out of the Box.  Panel, consisting of technologists, privacy advocates, industry reps will look at three scenarios - online browsing, e-mail and online commercial transactions. In each case panelists will be asked to discuss (1) what personal information is available at specific points in the transaction, and to whom, (2) what implications (benefits and risks) flow from the availability of that personal information, and (3) what law, regulation, self-regulation or technology is available, if any, to protect that personal information.  Moderator: To Be Announced.

10:15-11:30 am.  Break.

11:30 am. - 12:30 pm.  Children's Privacy Roundtable.  Following the format of the previous session, panelists will discuss issues specific to the protection of children's privacy. Subjects will include issues of parental consent to collection of children's information, explanation of privacy policies to children, the level of effectiveness, or lack thereof, of current children's privacy policies, and special challenges to children's privacy presented by the online environment.  Moderator and Panelists: TBD.

12:30 - 1:00 pm.  Presentation of Survey Results - Privacy and the Elements of Self Regulation.  Professor Alan Westin will present the results of survey conducted jointly with Louis Harris on public concerns about privacy and perceptions about the ability of self regulation to protect privacy in personal information. Add other surveys (Georgia Tech, Business Week)

1:00 - 2:30 pm.  Lunch.

2:30 - 4:00 pm.  Elements of Effective Self Regulation.  The DOC Staff Paper on the Elements of Effective Self Regulation for Protection of Privacy will be presented and discussed by a panel including public interest/consumer advocacy interests, business, Internet users and government personnel with expertise in self-regulatory systems.  Moderator: Peter Swire.

4:00 - 4:30 pm.  Break.

4:30 - 6:00 pm.  Evaluating the Effectiveness of Self Regulation. Presentation, followed by peer review, of proposed methodology/ies for assessing compliance with the elements of effective self regulation, fair information practices (including awareness, choice, data security and consumer access) and enforcement (including consumer recourse, verification and consequences, internal mechanisms for implementing company privacy policies, third party verification and dispute resolution mechanisms). Moderator: Bob Gellman.

DAY 2 - June 24, 1998  

9:00 am.  - 12:30 pm.  Industry/Sector Presentation.  Companies and industry trade associations will present progress reports on the development and implementation of self regulation mechanisms. Presenters will discuss how the self regulation system fulfills the requirements set forth in the "Elements of Effective Self Regulation for Privacy," and how the particular company or trade sector has tailored its self regulation mechanism to reflect the nature of the data, the nature of the consumer, and the kind of business the company or industry engages in.

Sectoral Presentations, each 20 minutes followed by 10 minute responses: Financial Service Sector (Finances, Insurance, Securities), Internet Infrastructure, Publishers/Content Providers, Marketing/Advertising, Children, Alliance, others?

12:30 - 2:00 pm.  Lunch.

2:00 - 3:30 pm.  Technologies.  Presentation of technological tools to protect privacy, including contracting mechanisms (P3P, OPS), and control of identity technologies (crypto, cookie crunchers, anonymizer). Follow-on discussion.   Moderators: Esther Dyson, Elliott Maxwell.

3:30 - 3:45 pm.  Break.

3:45 - 4:45 pm.  Consumer Education/Consumer Assistance. Panel discussion of role of consumer education in privacy self regulation and presentation of efforts underway to implement consumer education/assistance programs (e.g. consumer education project; 1-800-PRIVACY,   Moderator: Maxine Sweet (Experian), TBD

4:45 - 5:00 pm.  Concluding Remarks.