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

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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 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 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 even considering the details of the code’s provisions.
Read a copy of the NTIA Transparency Code here:
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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John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson is an American consumer rights advocate and former journalist. Since 2005, he has worked for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group, as the lead researcher on Inside Google, the group's effort to educate the public about Google's dominance over the internet and the need for greater online privacy.

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