The Obama Administration's recent big data report moved in this direction, recommending that policymakers "look closely at the notice and consent framework that has been a central pillar of how privacy practices have been organized...." The accompanying report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology is more direct, urging that "policy attention should focus more on the actual uses of big data and less on its collection and analysis."
The answer is to focus on vigorous enforcement of existing laws that have proven effective at governing the collection and use of personal information. Policymakers and regulators must be vigilant in monitoring business activity to make certain our legal framework offers adequate consumer protection, and they should consider new restrictions on data collection and use only when real consumer harm is proven.
While it may sound paternalistic to have consumers protected instead of actively protecting themselves, the era of privacy notices has passed. Every new innovation in the Internet of Things provides another crack in the illusion of data democracy. It's time to move beyond this outdated notion -- just as it would make no sense for each of us to become our own meat inspector or bank examiner, it no longer makes sense to expect each of us to be our own privacy enforcer.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.