Privacy Prognostication at the State of the Net Conference


On Tuesday, January 17, 2012, FPF Director and Co-Chair Jules Polonetsky moderated a panel on the Congressional outlook on privacy legislation at the State of the Net Conference.  The panelists included Justin Brookman, Director of the Consumer Privacy Project at the Center of Democracy and Technology; Daniel Castro, Senior Analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; Ioana Rusu, Regulatory Counsel for Consumers Union; and Mike Zaneis, VP of Public Policy for the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

The consensus: Congress will most likely not pass broad privacy legislation this year. Still, with the anticipated release of numerous federal reports on protecting online privacy, the panel agreed that privacy would be a hot issue this year.


Panelists discussed industry self-regulatory efforts like the Icon Program that sets out to inform users about online behavioral advertising practices. Justin Brookman called for basic privacy legislation to provide consumers with a way of “figuring out what happens to their information online.”

Jules Polonetsky jokingly noted that the online behavioral advertising topic has eaten up all privacy issues and suggested that we not lose sight of the broader uses and value of data.

Debating the role the government should play in protecting privacy was another topic of discussion.  “A terrible idea is to take hypotheticals or products that are not in the marketplace and to legislate in the realm of the possible and not the actual,” said Mike Zaneis. “They [Congress] should be looking at actual bad actions or really probable future bad results for consumers before they really take legislation seriously.”

FPF Co-Chair Chris Wolf also presented at the conference on a panel debating the role intermediaries should play in taking actions against bad actors on the Internet as well as the importance of intermediary protections like Section 230.


-Lia Sheena