White House group takes aim at Internet privacy

Internet privacy issues at top of White House committee

The White House National Science and Technology Council today said it would set up a multi-agency subcommittee to monitor and address global Internet privacy policy challenges and help address those  challenges through coordinated US government action.  The Subcommittee will aim to strike the appropriate balance between the privacy expectations of consumers and the needs of public industry, law enforcement and other public-safety governmental entities, and others with a stake in the Internet's development, the group stated.

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"In this digital age, a thriving and dynamic economy requires Internet policies that promote innovation domestically and globally while ensuring strong and sensible protections of individuals' private information and the ability of governments to meet their obligations to protect public safety," wrote Cameron Kerry, General Counsel at the Department of Commerce and Christopher Schroeder, Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice on the White House Blog.

"The public policy direction developed by the Subcommittee will be closely synchronized to privacy practices in federal Departments and agencies, resulting in a comprehensive and forward-looking commitment to a common set of Internet policy principles across government.  These core principles include facilitating transparency, promoting cooperation, empowering individuals to make informed and intelligent choices, strengthening multi-stakeholder governance models, and building trust in online environments," the blog stated.

The subcommittee will include the Departments of Commerce, Justice,  Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, State, Transportation, Treasury and Small Business Administration.  The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission will be included such as the National Security Council and National Security Staff and  the Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.

In the face of numerous attacks on and leaks of private data, there has been an increase in the number of government-sponsored projects looking to protect privacy on the Internet.  Recently the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a call for information on how it can help develop technology to best protect the rich private details that are often available on social media sites.  Better anonymization algorithms and other technology to hide data seems to be a key component of what DARPA is looking to develop, though it notes:  Anonymization techniques for social network data can also be more challenging than those for relational data.

"Massive amounts of social network data are being collected for military, government and commercial purposes. In all three sectors, there is an ever growing need for the exchange or publication of this data for analysis and scientific research activities. However, this data is rich in private details about individuals whose privacy must be protected and great care must be taken to do so. A major technical challenge for social network data exchange and publication is the simultaneous preservation of data privacy and security on the one hand and information utility on the other," DARPA stated.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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