Hundreds of the privacy-aware population showed at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) first-ever public meeting on mobile privacy last week. The meeting highlighted that we have a long way to go, and that there’s a great need to move conversation into action.
The NTIA, part of the Department of Commerce, is the Executive Branch agency advising the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. It announced a series of multistakeholder privacy meetings in response to the Obama Administration’s February 2012 privacy framework, which suggested a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and called for an open process where privacy advocates, businesses, academics, and the public at large could talk about the issues that matter most.
Approximately 250 attendees filled an auditorium in the Commerce Department building in Washington DC, speaking in minute-long bursts on four microphones around the room. A moderator, whose previous work included managing large ICANN meetings, facilitated the sometimes frustrated speakers.
Like everyone else, we agree that transparency is a good thing. You need to know how companies and apps are using your personal information. If you’re trading your data to use “free” services like Facebook, you should be able to understand the full nature of that trade.
We think consumers need more control over their mobile privacy, not 6 months from now, but right now. Your phone is your most personal computer: it’s more powerful than most of the computers you’ve ever owned, and it goes with you everywhere. Massachusetts judge Robert Cosgrove recently stated in Commonwealth v. Pitt that a phone is “a GPS tracking device that provides a window into the most private dimensions of [our] lives.”
Given how powerful and personal your phone is, it’s unfortunate that mobile platforms are restricted and don’t give consumers the choice or the ability to control their privacy. This is why we can’t yet offer Do Not Track Plus for mobile, even though people ask us for it all the time.
We commend the White House and the FTC for paying attention to privacy, something that’s really important to many Americans, and it’s great that the NTIA is working to build the best system they can for improving your privacy rights. We wanted to see more action come from this opportunity. It’s not often that so many influential people in the privacy world get together in one place to address a critical issue like mobile app privacy, and it would have been nice to come away with more progress. With that said, we’re optimistic that this meeting series will be a catalyst for creating change over time.
How do you feel about your privacy on your mobile devices? Are you more or less worried about it than you are about your laptop or desktop? What would you like to see happen to feel more protected?