|December 28, 1999
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is John du Pre Gauntt and I would like to submit my nomination to the Advisory Committee on Online Access and Security.
I submit my nomination based upon my understanding of the relevant areas of information technology affecting this debate, past experience in the online publishing world (especially as it pertains to collecting demographics and activity data), and my lack of affiliation to a business, government or consumer privacy interest group. Essentially, I represent myself as an informed citizen of the United States of America.
Based upon my reading of the FTC announcement in the Federal Register, "In selecting Advisory Committee members, the agency will appoint individuals who can represent effectively the broad range of interests affected by commercial Web sites collection of personal information from and about online consumers, including online businesses, trade associations, privacy and consumer groups, and experts in interactive technology ", I foresee a high probability that a dialogue of the deaf will ensue surrounding this critical issue. In a word, the Committee that you are drawing together will attract a plethora of impassioned advocates who have already committed to memory many of the speeches that are likely to be heard. I nominate myself precisely because I am dispassionate and will be able to ask obvious and uncomfortable questions to all sides.
Specifically, I feel that I am qualified to act as a participant and interlocuteur based upon the following:
Granted that I base my application on my non-partisan background, I feel that it is important to state my basic philosophy regarding online privacy and security. I believe that demographics and activity data are the capital (that which we accumulate and put to work) of the 21st century. Those who can accumulate and draw meaning from user demographics/activity data in order to execute a business strategy will be able to organize essentially all other forms of capital (financial, intellectual, human, technical etc) in order to achieve their goals. It can be argued that in this context, the division of labor is starting to yield to the integration of knowledge about people to define a new economic and social system.
It is no surprise, therefore, that tension exists between those who must seek out, observe and capture insight regarding the predilections of online users and those who feel that network behavior that is short of an actual transaction should be utterly private.
In truth, there is no polar answer that can work. Sun Microsystems CEO Scott MacNealys observation that privacy is already gone and that we should get over it is as fatuous as cyber-libertarian fantasies that we can have our virtual cake (complete freedom from regulation) and eat it too (but if we get ripped off or our privacy invaded we want the cops to show up).
As such, I subscribe to an SEC view of the world regarding the ability of business to police itself. I believe that big business possesses sound judgment and strong moral fiber regarding its responsibility towards protecting customer privacy and I will watch it like a hawk to ensure that it stays that way.
Practically speaking, the Advisory Committee will need to produce a report outlining its recommendations in accordance with the Federal Register by May 15, 2000. Another aspect of my candidacy involves my capability drawn from experience as a journalist and editor to distill comments made by Advisory Committee participants and to construct a logically-organized plain English report on time to budget. I am not sure of the resources to be made available to the Advisory Committee but I offer my services.
I have enclosed my resume along with a copy of the 1999 PwC Electronic Business Technology Forecast. Currently, I work independently and am able to schedule my time to fit the listed meeting schedule as well as other ad hoc meetings. I have listed the names of references that you may call if you have questions about me or my ability to participate effectively in this dialogue.
I am well aware of the delicate balance of responsibilities and goals inherent in an effort of this type as well as certain constraints placed upon the agency. That said, I ask that you consider my nomination from a somewhat counterintuitive point-of-view. In the maturation process of the Internet and electronic commerce, a necessary (though not entirely beneficial) side-effect has been the gradual substitution of professional avocats in place of informed individuals in the policy formation process. It is not surprising, therefore, that an increasingly significant segment of the population comes to believe that their interests are not being truthfully represented but are instead being manipulated in the service of a power struggle among elites. Having no direct interest to represent enables me to speak on behalf of a much larger though very difficult to organize constituency; namely, the thoughtful individual.
I appreciate your consideration of my nomination.
John du Pre Gauntt