CDD Cites Lack of Consumer Groups at Privacy Hearing

Online privacy advocate Center for Digital Democracy chided the Senate Commerce Committee for a lack of consumer group witnesses at its Sept. 26 hearing on online privacy.

That came in a letter Tuesday (Sept. 25) from Jeff Chester, executive director of the center, to the chairman and ranking member of the committee, John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), respectively.

The hearing is featuring edge providers and ISPs--Google, Amazon, Apple, Twitter, AT&T, Charter--talking about protecting user privacy and information security.

Related: Facebook Faces More Pushback

"Unfortunately, by only having industry representatives as witnesses, it is unlikely that the public will learn about the actual practices conducted every day by the digital data industry," Chester wrote, "practices that threaten our privacy whenever we use mobile devices, personal computers, gaming platforms, or connected televisions."

But Chester was hoping to be there by proxy, but suggesting a list of questions for the witnesses and urging the leadership to ask them. To check out the questions (and see if any get asked at the hearing), click here.

Chester suggested there was an urgent need for those answers. "Americans have never been at a greater risk for the loss of their privacy, and their autonomy, as a consequence of the unconstrained data-gathering and-use practices of the industry."

Related: Dems Debut New Opt-in Privacy Bill

Whether out of political necessity or corporate conscience or a recognition of the power and ubiquity of the networks and web sites they run, both edge providers and ISPs have signaled they are open to some kind of legislation, but how users are given more control over their data, and on what platforms, remains the hard work. 

"For the first hearing, the committee is bringing in companies most consumers recognize to make the discussion about privacy more relatable," said Federick Hill, communications director for the committee. "We expect there will be opportunities for other voices at future hearings on the subject."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.