Elon University

Internet Governance Forum, USA 2019 – Privacy Strategy

IGF USA LogoOpening Plenary Panel: U.S. National Privacy Strategy, Featuring Fireside Chat with FTC’s Christine Wilson

Brief session description:

Thursday, July 25, 2019 – Technological change in the past year has led to heightened discussion of potential new legislation in the United States. Advocates argue for everything from a comprehensive privacy framework at the federal level, to deferral to the states in setting policy, to adhering to an approach in which regulation moves the technology sector to improve its practices. Today’s constantly-evolving Internet platforms have come under fire for their uses of data, and they continue to innovate and grow. Will a focused U.S. national privacy initiative emerge? This panel was asked to discuss potential implications of possible frameworks and the broader issue of data governance and its potential impact, large and small. The event was led off by a fireside chat with Christine Wilson, who was appointed to the FTC by President Donald Trump. She is one of five commissioners who lead the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Moderator – Dan Caprio, co-founder, Providence Group

Michelle Richardson, director of Data and Privacy Project, Center for Democracy and Technology
Jeff Brueggeman, vice president for global public policy, AT&T
Jim Halpert, partner, DLA Piper, a global security and privacy consultancy
Gabrielle Rejouis, law fellow, Georgetown Center on Privacy and Technology

Details of the session:

On the heels of the Federal Trade Commission’s announcement of a $5 billion fine for Facebook — as a result of an investigation over the control of its users’ personal data — experts came together at the Internet Governance Forum-USA on its 10th anniversary to discuss which national privacy strategy the United States should adopt.

IGF-USA co-chair Melinda Clem encouraged conference-goers to keep a “commitment of constant improvement and an understanding of the ever-evolving nature of the Internet.”

“We want to make this one internet the very best it can be,” she said.

Diane Rinaldo, acting assistant secretary of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, acknowledged the challenges facing the ever-changing Internet Clem referenced and stressed the importance of creating regulations for data privacy. When regulating the Internet, she said experts and lawmakers must be smarter.

“The Internet is impacting our daily lives more than ever before,” she said. “We must work harder than ever to confront these challenges.”

Part of the opening plenary included a fireside chat with Christine S. Wilson, commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission and co-founder of the Providence Group. Wilson spent some of her time discussing the commission’s decision to penalize Facebook in “order to create a culture of compliance,” she said.

Wilson was vague about some of the specific reasons behind Facebook’s fine, but she did indicate part of the reason for the repudiation was that Facebook misrepresented the way it was using users’ data in ways the company said it wouldn’t. She stressed the punishment was specific to Facebook, so other companies may not be fined for the same behavior in the future.

But she also expressed her intention for consumers to regain control of the information Internet platforms like Facebook collect on them and for companies to provide transparency and accountability about consumer privacy.

She said Congress has a responsibility to “sketch out the values and limits of information sharing” in order for the FTC to be able to regulate user privacy.

It was a sentiment shared by a group of experts in the ensuing panel discussion. DLA Piper Partner Jim Halpert added to Wilson’s point and said he was optimistic Congress could create regulations, saying “we are not starting from scratch” and that privacy standards have been set with laws like Europe’s GDPR and California’s CCPA. Both policies lay out regulations for companies when it comes to their users’ data privacy.

Michelle Richardson, the director of the Privacy and Data Project at CDT, said the idea of privacy regulations is to “shift the burden from users back on the companies. We just need to accept that we’re an always-on society now.”

Richardson’s idea of data privacy regulation rests on the basis of “digital civil rights,” he said, and an intention for users to know their rights and understand whether they’re signing them away.

Jeff Brueggeman, vice president of global public policy at AT&T, echoed Richardson’s point and added that more and more consumers are interested in their rights and their privacy.

“Every consumer now is more impacted by privacy than ever before,” he said. “We are going to be in for a much more complicated situation going forward,” if privacy isn’t a focus now.

Gabrielle Rejouis, a law fellow at the Georgetown Center on Privacy and Technology, said “the key is that the individual is being protected” in the regulations.

The panelists agreed that there is no one perfect solution to privacy regulation and emphasized having flexible laws. They acknowledging the importance of Congress to establish policies that address the sensitive nature of data and the far reach of the Internet.

“It’s scary to think we’ll never be able to predict what an algorithm can do,” Rejouis said.

– By Maria Ramirez Uribe

Click here to return to IGF-USA 2019 homepage

Full video of fireside chat with FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson – https://livestream.com/internetsociety/igfusa2019/videos/194353863

Panel discussion on U.S. Privacy Policy – https://livestream.com/internetsociety/igfusa2019/videos/194354085

The multimedia reporting team for Imagining the Internet at IGF-USA 2019 included the following Elon University School of Communications students, staff and faculty:

Janna Anderson, Maeve Ashbrook, Elisabeth Bachmann, Bryan Baker, Paloma Camacho, Samantha Casamento, Colin Donohue, Abby Gibbs, Jack Haley, Hannah Massen, Grace Morris, Jack Norcross, Maria Ramirez, Brian Rea, Alexandra Roat, Baylor Rodman, Zach Skillings, Ted Thomas, Victoria Traxler, Julia Walter, Courtney Weiner, Mackenzie Wilkes and Cameron Wolfslayer