Effort To Craft Apps “Transparency Code” Shows Futility of Multi-Stakeholder Process

Obama Must Propose Legislation If He Cares About Privacy, Consumer Watchdog Says

WASHINGTON, DC – A yearlong effort convened by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) demonstrates the futility of crafting codes of conduct through a voluntary multi-stakeholder process and the way participants were asked their opinion of the proposed code makes a mockery of the effort, Consumer Watchdog said today.

President Obama must propose detailed privacy legislation — something he called for more than a year ago – if he cares about consumers’ privacy, the nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest group said.

NTIA formally polled participants about the proposed code during Thursday’s meeting. They were asked if they “endorsed” the code, “supported” the code, or wanted “further consideration” or “objected.” Endorsement means a company is saying it they “support the finalization of the code and intend to adopt the code once they have developed and tested a compliant mobile short-form disclosure,” NTIA said.

However, under NTIA’s guidelines expressing “support” carries no obligation. “Supporters are not making

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any representation that they will adopt the code or recommend adoption to their members,” NTIA said.

“This is absurd Orwellian doublespeak,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “A company can put out a press release saying it supports the Transparency Code, boosting its public image and then do absolutely nothing.”

Two participants said they endorsed the code, 20 supported it, 17 voted for further consideration and one objected.

Consumer Watchdog said this method of allowing “support” without requiring compliance was enough to undermine the credibility of the entire process without

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even considering the details of the code’s provisions.

Read a copy of the NTIA Transparency Code here:
http://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia/publications/july_25_code_draft.docx

Under the White House proposal “Consumer Data Privacy In a Networked World” issued in February 2012 President Obama envisioned enacting a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” after passing baseline privacy legislation and developing “voluntary enforceable” codes of conduct through a multi-stakeholder process.

“It simply has not worked,” said Simpson. “The first effort was supposed to be the simplest – a Transparency Code for mobile apps. That morphed into short-form transparency notices that at best provide marginal improvements in privacy protection that companies can say they support, but will be allowed to ignore.”

Simpson continued: “A year after calling for privacy legislation, we have seen nothing from the administration. This multi-stakeholder process has been a diversion and a waste of time. President Obama, if you are serious about protecting consumers’ privacy, show us your proposed legislation.”

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Visit our website at www.ConsumerWatchdog.org

Published by John M. Simpson

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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