Tech & The District » Privacy http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict Tech the way we see it: insights and musings on technology PR, policy and the District, from H&K’s D.C. Tech Team. Thu, 04 Aug 2011 15:06:44 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 2011 Congressional Outlook http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/2010/11/19/2011-congressional-outlook/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/2010/11/19/2011-congressional-outlook/#comments Fri, 19 Nov 2010 22:34:57 +0000 Ben Breit http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/?p=648 As expected, the mid-term election turned out to be a sweeping and historic victory for Congressional Republicans, as they snatched 6 Senate seats and at least 60 House seats (plus control) from Democratic hands. House Republicans, in eager anticipation of Nancy Pelosi officially passing the gavel to John Boehner, have wasted little time in drafting an aggressive agenda for the 112th Congress.

Naturally, most of the political discourse since November 2 has been enveloped by issues such as healthcare repeal and the national debt. On that note, we thought it appropriate to put on our public affairs hats and address question that tech insiders from D.C. to Silicon Valley are asking: In this heated political environment, does the tech industry have any chance at all to gain traction on its core issues before the divided Congress?

Handicapping the Republicans’ play appears to be easy at first glance. Following Republican criticism that President Obama neglected the economy in lieu of an insular focus on healthcare reform, future Speaker John Boehner’s agenda is likely stock full at this time.  Indeed, nowhere in Republicans’ much publicized Pledge to America does the word “technology” even appear. Seeing many of its top allies getting relegated to ranking status (or in Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher’s case, relegated out of office) could not have been a pleasant sight for Silicon Valley.

Much of the agenda will ride on who takes over as Chair of the important House Energy and Commerce Committee, which regulates many technology issues. As the current ranking member, Joe Barton would appear to have the leg up. However, the broad nature of a committee that regulates both technology and the environment, coupled with Barton’s defense of BP CEO Tony Hayword, might prove a dealbreaker for Republican leadership. The Texas Republican is facing a spirited challenge from Michigan’s Fred Upton. Both Rep. Barton and Rep. Upton have declared net neutrality dead on arrival under their chairmanships. Still, there is a lot of money on both sides of the issue, so it is likely to at least get raised in 2011.

Alternatively, the issue of patent reform is handled by the Judiciary Committees. Here, the conflict is not between Democrats and Republicans as much as it is between the House and Senate. Senate Judiciary Members reached a deal earlier this year that was criticized by many in the technology sector. House Judiciary Members agreed and refused to participate in negotiations until the Senate came back with a bill that was more tech-friendly. The issue has been stalled ever since.

Since patent reform lacks a partisan divide, is there hope for it in 2011? Possibly. However, anyone who thinks any technology issue – whether it patent reform, net neutrality, privacy or any others – has a realistic chance of making the 2011 Congressional agenda is probably being overly optimistic.

But is it fair to exclude this sector from discussions on the economy and jobs? A strong argument could be made for relying more than ever on technology companies during these trying times. According to a report from the Tech America Foundation, the tech industry has begun its climb out of the recession, having added 32,200 jobs from January-June 2010.

“The technology industry now appears to be slowly turning the corner with the rest of the economy,” said Phil Bond, the Foundation’s president and chief executive officer. “We have weathered the storm better than most. From its position embedded in every other industry, technology remains the best hope for driving robust recovery across the economy.”

Both Republicans and Democrats have had a focus on creating jobs – and understandably so. Perhaps Congressional leadership would do well to realize that in these trying times, it might be worth it to address the concerns of one of the few industries that has actually made job creation a reality rather than a theory.

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Privacy and the Terminator http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/2010/03/17/privacy-and-the-terminator/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/2010/03/17/privacy-and-the-terminator/#comments Wed, 17 Mar 2010 21:58:42 +0000 duncanburns http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/?p=372

Great piece today by Steve Lohr in the NY Times (A1, above the fold) on How Privacy Vanishes online. Though the concept of digital litter and eroding privacy expectations have been around for a while, and are perhaps fodder for some of our more technology-phobic friends, family and colleagues, the story points to what I think is likely to be a big new battleground in DC. At what point should the government step in online and protect us from ourselves?

They already do to some extent with other forms of content/communication like films and games with rating systems and phone lines with do not call registries, but in some ways these are incoming rather than outgoing communications where we are voluntarily (phishing aside) for the most part divulging what used to be considered personal and private.

Where should the FTC, Congress or states draw the line on what’s acceptable – balancing individual freedom to share with protecting those individuals in spite of themselves? Having been a victim of banking fraud, I personally don’t want anyone guessing my social security number, but perhaps I’m already at risk given what I’ve put out there.

It’s going to be interesting to see how new tech dynamos work with government to find that balance. I’m sure it’ll be a full and frank discussion to borrow some diplomatic speak, but perhaps the discussion in itself will help educate a broader swath of people about the risks of some of what they’re putting online.

For companies in this space, start communicating your point of view now if you aren’t already, and talk about the options you’re giving your customers, and the ways you’re protecting them. Given the Whac-A-Mole style of politics at time, I’m not sure how much longer online companies are going to be able to get away with an approach of “ask for forgiveness not permission” when it comes to privacy. Though Google and Facebook are two prominent examples of firms dealing with these issues, they won’t be the last and at least they’ve built up enough trust, brand recognition and goodwill to make adjustments without too much damage. Can we say that about most companies grappling with these issues?

Perhaps we all just need to go off the grid like John Connor…? 

Is this what we can expect if we share too much online?

Is this what we can expect if we share too much online?

]]> http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/2010/03/17/privacy-and-the-terminator/feed/ 1 Consumer Privacy under the Microscope http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/2009/11/20/consumer-privacy-under-the-microscope/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/2009/11/20/consumer-privacy-under-the-microscope/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2009 19:15:56 +0000 Vanessa Truskey http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/?p=338 Buffalo Sabres' Goalie Ryan Miller.  Bet he doesn't let much personal information get by him.

Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. Bet he doesn't let much sensitive personal information get by him.

Last week, a catalog of NHL gear arrived in my mailbox.  On the cover was a photo of a Buffalo Sabres jersey, customized with my last name, “Truskey,” embroidered on the back.  That’s interesting, I thought.  I’d never purchased anything from this catalog before.  How did they know I’m a Sabres fan?  The same thing happened at my local grocery store, when coupons showed up on the back of the receipt for items that I buy frequently.  That’s when I started to feel like someone was watching me…and it wasn’t the Geico stack of money.

More now than ever, much of our personal data is up for grabs by marketers willing to pay for it.  We have membership cards for grocery stores, convenience stores and department stores that track our purchases.  We have smart cards and EZ-Pass devices that record which subway turnstile we go through and when, and which exit we take on the Interstate.  Marketers are good at creating profiles of who we are – whether we like it or not.

A House hearing was held yesterday to explore this very topic.  It was a fascinating discussion. While companies like Wal-Mart (who was represented on the panel) take steps to ensure customers understand which privacy regulations are in place, other companies aren’t so straightforward.  A small business representative was also on the panel, and asked that any legislation enacted not be the same for all businesses; Wal-Mart doesn’t have to work to attract customers, but small business do, she argued, and they find this type of data collected on consumers to be very helpful in generating new customers.  And from a consumer perspective – some like targeted advertisements, some don’t.  The trick will be to find a solution that doesn’t restrict business growth, but protects consumers while not cutting off services they appreciate.

The conversation will continue in December when the Federal Trade Commission will hold a roundtable to discuss data-collection practices with representatives of the ad, media and technology industries and consumer groups.  As for me … I’m still deciding which number to get on the back of my jersey.

[The Chief Privacy Officer of Kantar Group, a WPP company and sister company of Hill & Knowlton, testified at the Hearing.]

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