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First Privacy Multistakeholder Meeting: July 12, 2012

Date: 
June 15, 2012

NTIA will hold the first meeting of a privacy multistakeholder process on July 12, 2012.  The goal of the first process is to develop a code of conduct to provide transparency in how companies providing applications and interactive services for mobile devices handle personal data.

In March, NTIA requested public comments concerning the privacy multistakeholder process (the “Request for Comments”). The Request for Comments generated robust input from a substantial number of stakeholders, and many commenters identified issues that might be addressed through the privacy multistakeholder approach.  The majority of commenters addressed mobile application (“mobile app”) transparency, and the topic was supported by a broad range of stakeholders across the government, commercial, civil society, and academic sectors. NTIA has selected mobile app transparency as the focus of the first privacy multistakeholder process.

Mobile applications are socially and economically important, but mobile devices pose distinct consumer privacy challenges, such as disclosing relevant information on a small display. In addition, commenters noted that practices surrounding the disclosure of consumer data privacy practices do not appear to have kept pace with rapid developments in technology and business models.  Although other possible topics were suggested and may be pursued in future multistakeholder convenings, the mobile app transparency topic presents a strong opportunity for stakeholders to reach consensus on a code of conduct in a reasonable timeframe. 

The NTIA-convened process will encourage stakeholders to develop a code of conduct that promotes transparent disclosures to consumers concerning mobile apps’ treatment of personal data. A code of conduct would give mobile app-related businesses greater certainty about how the Privacy Blueprint’s transparency principle applies to them.  A code of conduct might address how best to convey data practices to consumers who download mobile apps and use interactive mobile services.

The issue of mobile app transparency potentially impacts a range of industry participants, including: developers of mobile apps; providers of sophisticated interactive services for mobile devices (such as those utilizing HTML5 to access mobile APIs); and mobile app platforms, among others. A number of initiatives and proposals have been undertaken in this context, some of which may provide useful input into the stakeholder process. Mobile app transparency is an important and definable area where consumers and businesses can receive substantial benefits from a code of conduct in a reasonable timeframe.

Meeting Details

The July 12, 2012 multistakeholder meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m and is expected to end no later than 4:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in the Auditorium of the Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20230. The meeting is open to all interested stakeholders, will be webcast, and is open to the press.

Stakeholders and other attendees are encouraged to attend in person or to view the webcast.

The July 12, 2012 meeting will be the first in a series of NTIA-convened multistakeholder discussions concerning mobile app transparency. Stakeholders will engage in an open, transparent, consensus-driven process to develop a code of conduct. The objectives of the July 12, 2012 meeting are to: 1) promote discussion among stakeholders by employing a structured, open process; and 2) provide a venue for stakeholders to agree on the schedule and format of future meetings.

Background

The White House’s Privacy Blueprint contains a number of key elements, including: (1) a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, which is a set of principles the Administration believes should govern the handling of personal data in commercial sectors that are not subject to existing federal privacy statutes; and (2) a multistakeholder process, which NTIA will convene, to develop legally enforceable codes of conduct that specify how the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights applies in specific business contexts.

NTIA’s Request for Comments stated “NTIA’s role in the privacy multistakeholder process will be to provide a forum for discussion and consensus-building among stakeholders.” In situations in which stakeholders disagree over how best to interpret the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, NTIA’s role, as explained in the Privacy Blueprint, ‘‘will be to help the parties reach clarity on what their positions are and whether there are options for compromise toward consensus, rather than substituting its own judgment.’’

The Request for Comments noted that stakeholder groups convened to develop codes of conduct will not be advisory committees, as neither NTIA nor any other Federal agency or office will seek consensus advice or recommendations on policy issues from participants in the privacy multistakeholder process.  NTIA sought comments on “what issues should be addressed through the privacy multistakeholder process” and “how stakeholder discussions of the proposed issue(s) should be structured to ensure openness, transparency, and consensus-building.” More than eighty commenters filed responses to the Request for Comments. Individuals and entities in the commercial, academic, civil society, and government sectors filed comments.

For further information, please contact John Verdi, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room 4725, Washington, DC 20230; telephone (202) 482-8238; email jverdi@ntia.doc.gov. Please direct media inquiries to NTIA’s Office of Public Affairs, (202) 482-7002.