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Information Infrastructure Task Force

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Background Edit

The Information Infrastructure Task Force (IITF) was created in 1993 by Vice-President Al Gore. Its mission was to articulate and implement the Administration's vision for the National Information Infrastructure (NII). The IITF was chaired by Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown and consisted of high-level representatives of the federal agencies that play a role in advancing the development and application of information technologies.

Guided by the principles for government action described in National Information Infrastructure (NII) Agenda for Action[1] and Global Information Infrastructure (GII) Agenda for Cooperation,[2] the participating agencies were tasked to work with the private sector, public interest groups, Congress, and State and local governments to develop comprehensive telecommunications and information policies and programs that will promote the development of the NII and best meet the country's needs.

A May 1994 IITF report explored many of the issues associated with and potential applications of the NII, including manufacturing, electronic commerce, health care, education, environmental monitoring, libraries, and government service delivery.[3]

In 1997, the Task Force recommended a market-oriented non-regulatory strategy to promote global electronic commerce on the Internet,[4] and supported industry developed standards for privacy protection.[5]

Committee Structure Edit

To promote these efforts, the IITF was organized into three committees:

  • Telecommunications Policy Committee, which formulated Administration positions on relevant telecommunications issues;
  • Committee on Applications and Technology, which coordinated Administration efforts to develop, demonstrate and promote applications of information technologies in key areas; and
  • Information Policy Committee, which addressed critical information policy issues that must be dealt with if the NII were to be fully deployed and utilized. In addition, the IITF established a Security Issues Forum to assess the security needs and concerns of users, service providers, information providers, State and local governments and others.

Finally, the U.S. Advisory Council on the National Information Infrastructure (NII Advisory Council) was established within the Department of Commerce to advise the Secretary of Commerce on a national strategy for promoting the development of the NII.[6]

Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights Edit

The Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights (“Working Group”), which was chaired by then-Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks Bruce A. Lehman, was established within the Information Policy Committee to examine the intellectual property implications of the NII and make recommendations on any appropriate changes to U.S. intellectual property law and policy.[7]

In September 1995, the Working Group issued a report titled "Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure: The Report of the Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights" ("Report"), which examined and analyzed each of the major areas of intellectual property law, focusing primarily on copyright law and its application and effectiveness in the context of the NII.[8] The Report discussed the application of existing copyright law and recommended only those changes that were deemed essential to adapting the law to the needs of the global information society.

To prepare the Report, the Working Group drew upon expertise within the participating departments and agencies of the federal government, as well as the views of the public, including those of the NII Advisory Council. The Working Group also held public hearings and also solicited written comments. Following its review of the public comments and analysis of the issues, the Working Group released a preliminary draft of its report ("Green Paper") on July 7, 1994.[9] Following the release of the Green Paper, the Working Group heard public testimony and received more than 1,500 pages of written comments by more than 150 individuals and organizations.

The Working Group convened a Conference on Fair Use (CONFU) to bring together copyright owner and user interests to discuss fair use issues and, if possible, to develop guidelines for uses of copyrighted works by librarians and educators.

Privacy Working Group Edit

The Task Force's Information Policy Committee (IPC) created a Privacy Working Group (PWG) to consider the ways in which the NII might affect individual privacy. The PWG issued the Principles for Providing and Using Personal Information (Privacy Principles) in 1995,[10] to articulate the elements of fair information practices needed to ensure continued development of the NII.

The Privacy Principles are designed to apply to the collection and use of information by both government and industry. They are based on existing international articulations of fair information practices in order to provide a common vocabulary for resolution of international conflicts involving data use.

The Privacy Principles reflect a recognition that the nature of the electronic medium itself must shape development of a workable privacy policy. Specifically:

  1. consumers, government, and businesses have a shared responsibility for the fair and secure use of personal information;
  2. the technology of the NII has the potential, as yet unexploited, to empower individuals to take steps to protect their personal information;
  3. openness about, and accountability for, the process of collecting and using personal information is crucial on the NII; but
  4. openness and accountability will not be meaningful until consumers become educated about the ways in which their personal information is being used in cyberspace, and by whom.

The Privacy Principles identify three values to govern the way in which personal information is acquired, disclosed and used onlineinformation privacy, information integrity, and information quality.

First, an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy regarding access to, and use of, his or her personal information should be assured. Second, personal information should not be improperly altered or destroyed. And, third, personal information should be accurate, timely, complete, and relevant for the purposes for which it is provided and used.

The Privacy Principles call on those who gather and use personal information to recognize and respect the privacy interest that individuals have in personal information by (1) assessing the impact on privacy in deciding whether to obtain or use personal information; and, (2) obtaining and keeping only information that could be reasonably expected to support current or planned activities. Data gatherers should use the information only for those current or planned activities or for compatible purposes.

Because individuals need to be able to make informed decisions about providing personal information, the organizations that collect information should disclose: (1) why they are collecting the information; (2) for what purposes they expect to use the information; (3) what steps will be taken to protect the confidentiality, quality and integrity of information collected; (4) the consequences of providing or withholding information; and (5) any rights of redress that are available to individuals for wrongful or inaccurate disclosure of their information.

Organizations that gather personal information should take reasonable steps to prevent improper disclosure or alteration of information collected, and should enable individuals to limit the use of their personal information if the intended use is incompatible with the reason for which the information was collected, or not disclosed in the notice provided by collectors.

Organizations that gather personal data should educate themselves, their employees, and the public about how personal information is obtained, sent, stored, processed, and protected, and how these activities affect individuals and society.

The Privacy Principles obligate individuals to obtain relevant information about why the information is being collected, what the information will be used for, what steps will be taken to protect that information, the consequences of providing or withholding information, and any rights of redress that they may have. They should have notice and a means of redress — and they should use the means provided — if they are harmed by improper use or disclosure of personal information.

The Privacy Principles are designed to balance the rights of individuals with the information needs of both government and business. They establish a foundation upon which industry and associations may develop codes and standards for their profession, agencies may evaluate privacy policies, and legislators may enact legislative solutions. The Privacy Principles were developed collaboratively, with input from both the public and the private sectors. This Options Paper incorporates extensive research, analysis and writing undertaken in 1995 and 1996 by the Privacy Working Group in its subsequent study of options for protecting personal privacy on the NII.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Information Infrastructure Task Force, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, The National Information Infrastructure: Agenda for Action (Sept. 1993) (full-text).
  2. Information Infrastructure Task Force, Global Information Infrastructure: Agenda for Cooperation (Feb. 1995) (full-text).
  3. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Putting the Information Infrastructure to Work: Report of the Information Infrastructure Task Force Committee on Applications and Technology (May 1994).
  4. See Information Infrastructure Task Force, A Framework for Global Electronic Commerce 10-12 (1997) (full-text).
  5. Information Infrastructure Task Force, Options for Promoting Privacy on the National Information Infrastructure (Apr. 1997) (full-text).
  6. See Executive Order 12864.
  7. In the course of its work, the Working Group identified issues in other areas of jurisprudence, such as defamation and obscenity, which were considered separately by the Information Policy Committee.
  8. The "National Information Infrastructure," as discussed in the Report, encompassed digital, interactive services, such as the Internet, as well as those contemplated for the future. To make the analyses more concrete, however, the Working Group evaluated the intellectual property implications of activity on the Internet, the superstructure whose protocols and rules effectively created (or permitted the creation of) a "network of networks." According to the Report, this evaluation reflected neither an endorsement of the Internet nor a derogation of any other existing or proposed network or service that may be available via the NII, but, rather, an acknowledgment that a currently functioning structure lent itself more readily to legal analysis than a hypothetical construct based on future developments.
  9. See Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure: A Preliminary Draft of the Report of the Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights.
  10. Privacy Working Group, Information Infrastructure Task Force, Principles for Providing and Using Personal Information (1995) (hereinafter "Privacy Principles") (full-text).

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