Options for Promoting Privacy on the National Information Infrastructure. VI. Conclusion

04/01/1997

Data is the commodity that will fuel the information superhighway.

Consumers want to control what personal information is disclosed about them, to whom, and how that information will be used. As a result, electronic commerce will flourish only if we are able to agree on, and implement, fair information practices for the information age.

The Privacy Principles articulate a methodology for determining, in any particular circumstance, whether an information practice is fair. In this Options Paper we have attempted to set the stage for a thoughtful debate on how best to implement that methodology across disparate economic and social sectors in simple, unobtrusive, and predictable ways.

Our task has been, and will continue to be, complicated by the ubiquitous presence and rapid evolution of information technology, by the changing value of information itself, and by the complexity and variety of privacy perspectives around the globe. Every day, a new information gathering technology emerges, its virtues and vices are hailed, and a new technological response or governance norm is conceived. The desire to issue a complete, and completely current, Options Paper began to stand in the way of issuing any Options Paper at all.

But it is time now to begin the debate in earnest, keeping in mind always that a solution that is not sufficiently flexible to keep pace with the rate of change in the digital environment is no solution at all.

We hope that this Options Paper will elicit comments, ideas, and suggestions from a broad range of respondents and provoke a lively public discussion on the best way to balance competing values of personal privacy and the free flow of information in a digital democratic society. The Information Policy Committee will consider all comments carefully, and use them to inform the policies and practices it will subsequently recommend to the Information Infrastructure Task Force.