Reputation in the Modern World

Intel’s director of Security Policy and Global Privacy Officer, David Hoffman, wrote an op-ed for The Hill’s Congress Blog. Check it out!

Today, the important discussion about online privacy continues with the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on how best to protect consumers’ privacy in the modern world. Intel has worked hard to understand what consumers want out of technology and why.

We consistently hear that consumers have different ideas about what information deserves to be private. Consumers want to control information that is important to them, specifically information that shapes their online reputations and their families, friends, and work colleagues. People want to be able to choose what, when, and with whom to share certain information. After having made choices about how to protect this information, they do not want to be surprised by how the data will be used. By exercising control over their information, consumers aim to manage their reputation and to protect those they care about.

Technology provides a significant opportunity for individuals to make choices and exercise control over their online reputations. However, this exercise of control requires that the companies that create the hardware, software, and online services develop user experiences that allow individuals to understand what can be done to protect access to data. For this system to work, there must be a backstop of government enforcement to hold companies accountable when they mislead people about how technology will operate.

Therefore, the best way to ensure consumers can manage their information is through comprehensive privacy legislation. Such legislation would create baseline protections that apply to all actors in the marketplace. Additionally, comprehensive privacy legislation provides important statutory guidance to companies.

The Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011, co-sponsored by Senators John Kerry and John McCain, would provide consumers with strong controls over their information. This bill simultaneously provides consumers with strong privacy protections while allowing innovation to continue. Importantly, the bill is technology neutral: it does not mandate the adoption of one specific technology. This is a key provision because technology changes rapidly, and the proscription of specific technical solutions can hinder the adoption of new and more effective technologies. Additionally, the bill encourages privacy by design, the principle that companies should build technologies with privacy in mind. The bill also includes many of the principles of the Fair Information Practices such as (a) identification of who is collecting what data and why, (b) allowing consumers to choose whether or not to share their personal information, and (c) providing strong security protections to keep any shared data safe from malicious actors. Intel believes the bill deserves robust consideration and discussion as it goes through the legislative process to finalize its language.

Consumers care deeply about exercising control over their personal information. Intel supports discussion of the Kerry-McCain Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011, as it provides an excellent framework to provide consumers with the controls and protections they want.

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