Joint Center: Increased Consumer Education and Choice Needed to Address Privacy Concerns for New Internet Users, Forum Participants Say

Jul 27, 2011, 16:16 ET from Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --  Consumers should have the ability to decide how much of their personal information is available on the Internet, as well as ample opportunities to understand the purpose for which it is used, according to members of an expert panel of industry, advocacy and government leaders at a Washington forum on Internet privacy.

The forum, entitled The New Digital Profile: Managing Privacy in an Evolving, Mobile Internet, was sponsored on Tuesday by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a leading Washington, D.C.-based think tank addressing the concerns of African Americans and other people of color.  

Panel members stressed that education is critical to raising both awareness and transparency for consumers as innovation has established multiple platforms where a person's data is collected, aggregated and stored.  This is especially true of new adopters, people of color, seniors and low-income populations.

"This forum comes at a moment in time when people of color are increasing their use of broadband applications and services, but also when privacy concerns appear to be of utmost concern to those who have moved online only recently," said Ralph B. Everett, President and CEO of the Joint Center. "With broadband having such enormous potential to boost opportunity in communities of color, it becomes even more important to include new adopters of technology in the conversation on privacy and how to address these concerns."

A recent broadband study by the Joint Center found that 28 percent of African American Internet users have been online for less than five years, as compared to 18 percent of white users.

"Regardless of how and what you access, you should have the right to know what is being collected, and for what purpose," said Danny Sepulveda, Senior Advisor to U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA).  "At the end of the day, we need a comprehensive code of conduct."

According to the Federal Communications Commission, nearly 100 million Americans do not use broadband, and many non-users have cited privacy as a significant concern.  Panelists agreed that online privacy policies should be more accessible to consumers, even on mobile devices, and companies should be more transparent in the data being collected.  

Differences emerged, however, around the expectations for future legislation.  Link Hoewing, Vice President of Internet and Technology Policy at Verizon, said that any framework for policy legislation should be based on "norms and ground rules that promote innovation while protecting consumer interests."

But Timothy Robinson, Senior Policy Counsel and Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL), countered that while consumer privacy legislation ought to be balanced and pragmatic, ultimately the "preservation of consumer privacy is integral to consumer trust and compromising that pillar simply serves to erode that trust."

The panel identified key areas that require additional exploration as to how the Internet privacy issue impacts new adopters.

"Concerns about privacy can potentially prohibit broadband adoption among people living in the communities that can benefit most from what broadband can do to advance learning, opportunity, and quality of life," said Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee, Vice President and Director of the Joint Center. "How we address these concerns needs to align technology innovation, consumer trust and education, especially to assure new Internet users and non-adopters that the web is a safe space."

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is one of the nation's leading research and public policy institutions and the only one whose work focuses primarily on issues of particular concern to African Americans and other people of color. To learn more, please visit

SOURCE Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies