Monday, May 7, 2007

Throwing Scorpion Out With the Frog Water

Declan McCullagh says that the federal government is unlikely to implement the National Research Council's privacy recommendations, in particular, a privacy commissioner, because it isn't in the federal government's scorpion-like nature. Ars Technica also has coverage. (And why must it always be a czar?)

The US is having the same issue with privacy legislation that it had with television resolution. We adopted early, because we needed to see our Felix the Cat on the airwaves, and 441 lines of resolution are all that NBC in 1941 could muster. Likewise, the privacy principles developed by the US government in the 1970s were developed too soon, when databases were just creeping out of the punch card era. US privacy law ends up like broadcast TV sets - an archaic lo-res standard, while other parts of the world lagged behind, but adapted a more advanced standard. Think of Europe's Privacy Directive as PAL.

From what I've read of the NRC's paper (the Executive Summary), it seems they are going for a full blown HiDef 1080p Dolby Surround sort of privacy regime. Just as the networks dragged their feet on the 441 lines of resolution until they were forced to move ahead with HD by the FCC, so will industry drag their feet on privacy until a privacy czar, prince or archbishop cajoles them into the 21st century. I'm being optimistic, but at least the frog was committed.

Lo-Res Felix from

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