By Kim Hart - 11/12/09 05:48 PM EST
Current privacy laws have created an inconsistent patchwork of
variations in protection that can be difficult for consumers and
businesses to understand. As technology has continued to rapidly
evolve, this leads to many unanswered questions about how the laws
apply to emerging technologies such as cloud computing and advancements
in mobile technology.
As regulators and legislators begin to respond to these emerging issues, they should remember that consumers want real protection for their personal data whether it is gathered and stored by a hospital, a bank, a website, or the government and whether it is stored electronically or in a paper file. The more power the holder has to misuse the data, the greater the need for safeguards. Base-line privacy rules will be a start and those protections should apply to data gathered and used by both the public and private sectors.
Innovative e-commerce services can advance economic growth, but the Internet's essential freedom is in danger of dying a death by a thousand cuts if we allow political demands to trump privacy protections.
U.S. companies face even greater challenges when dealing with censors, regulators and law enforcement abroad. The U.S. government needs to lead the world in safeguarding civil liberties, but such leadership will fall flat if our own surveillance is only minimally less pervasive. A failure to act now will only weaken the hand of U.S. companies operating abroad.
Cross-posted on the Congress Blog