Options for Promoting Privacy on the National Information Infrastructure. V. Options for Protecting Informational Privacy on the Nii


In the previous Section of this paper, we identified a number of places where the U.S. approach to information privacy embodies trade-offs that may have been acceptable in a world of physically discreet paper records. The consequences of these same trade-offs may prove too costly in the global, digital environment, however.

Thus, we turn to the core question: what is the best way to implement fair information practices in both the public and the private sector in order to better balance the needs of government, commerce, and individuals in the Information Age, keeping in mind both the interest in the free flow of information and the protection of informational privacy? This Section explores a number of alternative approaches to address the substantive and structural problems identified in Section III.

We could, at one end of the spectrum, continue to rely primarily on the current mix of policy and legislative initiatives to implement the Privacy Principles or similar articulations of fair information practices. Within this framework, there are a number of options for government activity that might enhance the success of industry-led, market-based approaches to fair information practices without undermining the core virtues of our sectoral approach to privacy protection.

At the other end of the spectrum, the federal government could establish a central government authority to impose uniform privacy regulations based on the Privacy Principles (or another set of principles) across all sectors of the economy and enforce these regulations vigorously. Within this framework, there are a number of forms that such an entity might take.

We address both ends of the spectrum in turn, but urge readers to consider the entire range of options between them, for there is not any bright line that arbitrarily divides alternatives.