What's the Answer?

Privacy snafus keep happening because American businesses and government agencies have little formal guidance or expert advice in techniques for properly safeguarding privacy. That's not the case in other countries. For example, after the Public Library of Vancouver, British Columbia, installed 30 closed-circuit surveillance cameras to deter theft and vandalism, the privacy commissioner of British Columbia made an inspection of the premises. The commissioner then issued a report that showed how the cameras could be altered to do a better job of stopping theft while simultaneously having less impact on personal privacy.[7] But unlike Canada, Europe, Australia, and Hong Kong, the United States lacks both the legislation that would establish minimal privacy standards and a regulatory agency that could advise businesses and other parts of the government on acceptable privacy practices.

Indeed, the U.S. government continues to insist that there is no need for comprehensive legislation protecting personal privacy because voluntary privacy policies are sufficient, despite the fact that the Federal Trade Commission has told the U.S. Congress that there is a pressing need for new privacy legislation.[8]

Instead of fighting against privacy legislation, U.S. industry should focus on developing a set of privacy regulations and practices that is workable both on and off the Internet. These practices should take into account both the European Union 's Directive on Personal Information ...

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