The Secure Times

An online forum of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law's Privacy and Information Security Committee

Election 2012: Privacy Platforms Compared

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The Democratic and Republican Parties unveiled their respective policy platforms at their national conventions this past month. Both platforms address a host of issues related to internet freedoms and security, and differ greatly in some ways and little in others. The starkest contrast lies in the parties’ plans for protecting consumer privacy. However, in other areas such as cybersecurity, the differences seem more imagined than real.

Both party platforms prioritize the civil-liberties aspect of internet freedom but have different prescriptions for achieving achieving it. The Democratic platform envisions information privacy as freedom from private intrusion and public censorship, “protecting an open Internet that fosters investment, innovation, creativity, consumer choice, and free speech, unfettered by censorship or undue violations of privacy.” It later touts the implementation of consumer privacy initiatives taken by the White House as a step in this direction: “That’s why the administration launched the Internet Privacy Bill of Rights and encouraged innovative solutions such as a Do Not Track option for consumers.”

Earlier Secure Times coverage on the White House’s privacy approach and Privacy Bill of Rights is available here.

The Republican platform, on the other hand, specifically promises greater protection of personal data from use by government and law enforcement. In what may be a nod to the holding in United States v. Jones and the ongoing debate over location tracking, the RNC pledges to “ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach.”

The RNC platform goes on to add its support for protection from private actors, such that “individuals retain the right to control the use of their data by third parties.” However, it argues that “the only way to safeguard or improve these systems is through the private sector.”

Both platforms agree on the great importance of cybersecurity. However, the RNC criticizes the Administration for not being proactive enough in its efforts to neutralize new cyberthreats:

The current Administration’s cyber security policies have failed to curb malicious actions by our adversaries, and no wonder, for there is no active deterrence protocol. The current deterrence framework is overly reliant on the development of defensive capabilities and has been unsuccessful in dissuading cyber-related aggression. The U.S. cannot afford to risk the cyber-equivalent of Pearl Harbor.

The platform does not name any specific measures to dissuade rather than defend against cyberthreats, but it goes on to criticize the administration for not enabling enough information-sharing between public and private parties. Nonetheless, the Democratic platform mentions “strengthening private sector and international partnerships” as well.

Both parties roundly agree on the multi-stakeholder policymaking framework. Both statements seem to paraphrase each other. The RNC platform states:
We will resist any effort to shift control away from the successful multi-stakeholder approach of Internet governance and toward governance by international or other in- tergovernmental organizations.

The Secure Times provided earlier coverage of the Multistakeholder Process here.

Links:

National Journal: Dems Part Company With Republicans on Net Neutrality, Online Privacy

2012 Democratic National Platform

2012 Republican National Platform

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Author: Ben Neumeyer

Ben Neumeyer is a recently licensed lawyer working in consumer protection law and immigrant rights. During and before law school, Ben has worked at the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission in Washington, DC, and East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley, California.

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