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Tech

Consumer Groups: Privacy Meetings Favor D.C.

July 2, 2012

Consumer advocates are complaining that a lack of technology may mean that many people outside the Washington, D.C., area may not be able to participate in meetings aimed at designing new online privacy protections.

A dozen privacy and consumer groups wrote the head of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Monday to ask that the upcoming meetings feature technology to allow representatives to remotely participate.

Many groups that aren't based in the Washington area may not have the resources or time to send representatives to D.C. every time there is a meeting, and the NTIA's proposal to have its staff act as proxies just won't cut it, the organizations wrote it their letter.

"For the multi-stakeholder process to have any chance of success, it must include meaningful remote participation based on robust, two-way communication," the groups wrote. "To do less is to deny a real voice in the process for civil society."

They ask the NTIA to provide a conference call and an Internet chat service to allow people to participate in, and not just observe the meetings. The letter was signed by members of the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumers Union, and others.

The Obama administration's push for an online privacy bill of rights will begin in July with a meeting to consider privacy for mobile apps. The "multi-stakeholder" meeting will include representatives of companies, consumer advocacy groups, and others. It is part of the White House's effort to give consumers more control over how their personal data is collected and used online.

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