The New G-Men (or Should I Say G-Women) of Privacy


Digital Privacy is a big deal and with the US elections behind us, we can get on with the business at hand – finalizing standards and regulation (or the enforcement thereof) that protect our basic rights to know who is collecting and using our data, how it’s being used AND having greater choice over who and how it is collected.


While it’s easy to bash our respective governments, I’d like to call out three government agencies, and the women that lead them, that truly seem to have their citizens’ best interests at heart and are a good use of our taxpayer dollars:  The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the European Commission (EU) and the Information Privacy Commissioner, Ontario Canada.  All have been active proponents of increasing transparency, accountability and consumer choice relative to digital data sharing and usage and are encouraging privacy by design principles.

First off, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill has been extremely proactive in the Privacy effort – long before the Obama Privacy Bill of Rights saw the light of day.  Commissioner Brill has not only been driving things back in Washington, D.C., but she has been on the road engaging with businesses, developers, academicians and attorneys to reinforce the importance and urgency of resolving privacy-related issues and encouraging those of us in the web and mobile spaces to design our products based on privacy best practices, not simply some obscure privacy policy hidden away on a site or an about or settings screen.  Key to this is putting privacy choice front and center in any user interface.  I feel fortunate enough to have heard Commissioner Brill speak on two occasions and get her personal opinion on the Do Not Track (DNT) initiative at a recent App Developers Privacy Conference sponsored by the University of Colorado at Boulder.  She is smart and thoughtful and her staff is responsive to enquiries.

While I have not personally met EU Commission Vice President, Neelie Kroes, her statements on privacy are thoughtful and to the point.  She is doing her job, which is to protect the privacy of EU citizens and ensure recent privacy laws are enforced.  This does not mean killing business, but it does mean that businesses are not “more equal” than citizens, just because they have more people or money and speak louder.  As with the FTC, the EU Commission team is open and responsive to enquiries and connecting interested parties whose businesses and lives are affected by the recent privacy regulations.

Lastly, Ontario Information Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian, PhD, and her staff have been equally active in promoting the Privacy by Design concept throughout North American and Europe.  They actively reach out to organizations interested in setting new standards in privacy-centric web and app development and have a wonderful Privacy Ambassadors program for individuals and organizations who proactively promote the need for privacy within their field and utilize privacy by design principals within their organization’s development efforts. (I’m pleased to say my partner, Peter Cranstone has been named a Privacy Ambassador).

Based upon my personal experience, these three agencies, their leaders and their staff actually do something to serve their citizens and protect those rights deemed important by the different countries they represent.  Thank you!

Posted in: #privacy, Privacy, Uncategorized

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