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State of the Mobile Net Conference

The Advisory Committee of the Congressional Internet Caucus  held its 3rd Annual State of the Mobile Net Conference on May 26, 2011, in Washington, DC.  The conference highlighted how an array of technologies, content, and applications come together to make the Internet more mobile.  Additionally, the conference explored both the promise and challenges facing users and policy makers.


The conference opened with discussion of the importance of education, media literacy, and digital citizenship relating to online safety and privacy for digital youth.  The panelists, Jules Polonetsky, Co-chair and Director of the Future of Privacy Forum, Alan Simpson, Vice President of Policy, Common Sense Media, and Adam Thierer, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center at George Mason University debated the extent of free speech rights for teens, and addressed such topics as:

  • How extensive are their First Amendment rights? At what age?
  • A teen bill of rights and the basic question of how a teen is defined. Discussion centered on the Markey-Barton legislation H.R. 1895, the “Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011,” which amends the historic Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA).
  • Why not have a unified age standard rather than a bifurcated distinction (i.e., COPPA covers children under 13 years of age only)?
  • What are the implications for deleting an account from a social media site?
  • Shared data and collaboration, especially as it relates to deleting a social media account.

For  the second panel, “The State of Mobile Apps: The What and Where of Mobile Privacy”, Justin Brookman, Director, Center for Democracy & Technology;  Daniel Castro, Senior Analyst, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; and Jason Hong, Associate Professor, Carnegie Mellon University  debated the merits of mobile data collection, while stressing a “light touch” on privacy concerns.  Hong pointed out that industry and researchers have done a poor job explaining the benefits of data collection.  They also discussed the fact that mobile apps can collect far more information than ever before, yet 22 of the top 30 mobile apps do not have a privacy policy.  All expressed worries about accidental disclosures of location, over monitoring by employers, and law enforcement abuses.

The panel, ”Perspectives on Whether the Mobile Marketplace Will Remain Competitive?”, featured Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Senior Vice President and Policy Director, Media Access Project and Hal Singer, Managing Director and Principal, Navigant Economics, who disagreed totally on the competitiveness point.  Hal Singer stated that "if you want to know what's happening with wireless prices, look at them."  He believed that the data show a competitive marketplace. Andrew J. Schwartzman asserted that innovation, rather than price, is a better measure of the effects of concentration.

 The final panel, “Spectrum: How to Sate Our Ravenous Digital Devices?”, was moderated by Matthew Hussey, Office of the Honorable Olympia J. Snowe, who asked the discussants the following question: “How can we manage spectrum to meet 7 billion mobile devices?"

  • Michael Calabrese, Vice President of the New America Foundation, felt that spectrum capacity is incredibly abundant. He stated that it is unused for various reasons by big companies and the federal government who are reserving it for “just- in-case” scenarios.
  • Chris Ornelas, EVP Strategic Planning, National Association of Broadcasters, argued that a holistic approach was needed.  He said, "This is not a spectrum crisis, it's a capacity issue."
  • John Kneuer, President and Founder of Kneuer LLC, stated that the government should not get involved and that spectrum owners should be allowed to “do whatever they want with their licensed spectrum.”
     

The conferees also heard from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on his recently introduced privacy legislation, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) who called for carefully balanced privacy rules that enable business and promote innovation, and Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) who described his privacy legislation and other bi-partisan efforts.

Video of the conference will soon be available at: http://www.netcaucus.org/conference/2011/sotmn/

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