The National Research Council's Committee on Privacy in the Internet Age was composed of 16 people with a broad range of expertise, including senior individuals with backgrounds in information technology, business, government, and other institutional uses of personal information; consumer protection; liability; economics; and privacy law and policy. From 2002 to 2003, the committee held five meetings, most of which were intended to enable the committee to explore a wide range of different points of view.
The committee’s charge had four basic elements:
- To survey and analyze potential areas of concern — privacy risks to personal information associated with new technologies and their interaction with non-technology-based risks, the incidence of actual problems relative to the potential, trends in technology and practice that will influence impacts on privacy, and so on;
- To evaluate the technical and sociological context for those areas as well as new collection devices and methodologies — why personal information is at risk given its storage, communication, combination with other information, and various uses; trends in the voluntary and involuntary (and knowing and unknowing) sharing of that information;
- To assess what is and is not new about threats to the privacy of personal information today — taking into account the history of the use of information technology over several decades and developments in government and private sector practices; and
- To examine the tradeoffs (e.g., between more personalized marketing and more monitoring of personal buying patterns) involved in the collection and use of personal information, including the incidence of benefits and costs, and to examine alternative approaches to collection and use of personal information.
Further, in an attempt to paint a big picture that would at least sketch the contours of the full set of interactions and tradeoffs, the charge called for these analyses to take into account changes in technology; business, government, and other organizational demand for and supply of personal information; and the increasing capabilities for individuals to collect and use, as well as disseminate, personal information.
The results of the Committee's efforts was the report titled: Engaging Privacy and Information Technology in a Digital Age.