Elon University

A vision for the future

This is one of nearly a thousand foresight statements shared by people from around the world. To return to the Voices of the People home page or to refine your search, click here.

Name: Stan Faryna

Bio: President of Faryna & Associates, Inc, IAB Europe Board Member, President of IAB Romania

Area of Expertise: Futurist/Consultant

Topic: Privacy

Headline: Challenges ahead for legislating privacy are large

Nutshell: Great legislation must provide a balance between consumer and public protection without interfering with small and large business interests - especially those that support the richness of what we call the "vast" (massively vast offer of free or affordable online communications, content and services).


Although the American government seems to "get it" and works closely with digital industry experts (such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the EU), commissions seem to be building a relationship with the same online experts. We must wonder what the future of online privacy legislation will bring. In the balance, business seems to weigh against privacy.

There are three challenges we must overcome and, hopefully, sooner than later: great legislation requires a lot of think tanks having input on the issues, business has a bottom line called profit, and the problem of spyware and malware is getting worse.

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 1525, the Internet Spyware Prevention Act of 2007 (I-SPY Act). It provides needed authority and resources to law enforcement agencies to wage war on spyware. Hopefully, the EU, Asia, and elsewhere will follow such needed legislation.

On the other hand, government agencies will need to broaden the scope of their enforcement activities to be effective in the war against information and identity theft. What such broadening could become, hopefully, will not be big brother-ish. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of public policy think tanking on the subject. And especially outside of the US. However, if online legislation is to be effective, it must be a global effort.

The same spyware and malware that violates our primary right to privacy, steals personal and business information and threatens the sustainability and growth of the global e-economy– also provides valuable (albeit, illegal and ethically perverse) information assets that may be critical to the business performance of ambitious online advertising agencies and publishers who face fierce competition and unforgiving investors.

Spyware and malware will only get worse. It is extending to cars, mobile phones and refrigerators. It follows innovation wherever innovation happens and just as fast. It becomes more sophisticated, it replicates in greater magnitudes and it will become more flexible, the same bug will be able to jump from channel to channel (mobile phone to computer to car, etc.).

Great legislation must be timely. It must also provide a delicate balance between consumer and public protection without interfering with small and large business interests– especially those that support the richness of what I call the "vast" (that massively vast offer of free or affordable online communications, content and services that people get excited about). Certainly, it must have teeth and a bite.

Of course, digital industry members worldwide prefer self-regulation to legislation for good reason. And, yet, we all know who the black sheep are. Eventually, we will reject them and their unusual business practices. We will do this through pledges to best practices, standards and ethical norms. More, we will refuse to do business with the black sheep and we will warn others of the risks of working with them.

And still, we will not overcome our challenges so easily.

Date Submitted: May 23, 2007