Privacy Summit Sparks Much Discourse, Little Resolution

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The hosts of the Global Privacy Summit are satisfied that the conference this month in Washington lived up to its billing as an open debate and dialogue about privacy issues and practices.

"I think we have succeeded in taking the first step toward resolving the difficult issue of privacy, and that is getting people together to create a dialogue and start to ask the right questions," said co-host Eric Gertler, president/CEO of Privista, Atlanta. "We don't have all the answers, but we certainly raised a lot of great questions."

Over the course of three days, 376 businesspeople, privacy advocates and politicians discussed privacy in various keynote speeches, panel discussions and question-and-answer sessions.

"Privacy is more than the latest technology; it is a process involving people," said Gary E. Clayton, CEO and founder of the Privacy Council Inc., Dallas, the summit's co-host.

Too often privacy discussions take the form of privacy advocates versus data advocates, he added.

Although the summit attempted to provide attendees with a well-rounded perspective on the key privacy issues facing business, consumers and government, Mari J. Frank, an attorney and author specializing in privacy issues, identified herself as one of the few privacy advocates speaking at the conference.

There was no dispute that consumers are concerned about privacy and that business and government cannot ignore the issue, but there was no consensus on how to achieve the best balance between the needs for privacy and information.

In a keynote speech, Rep. Rick Boucher, D-VA, recommended federal legislation to assure consumer privacy.

While many of the speakers advocated some combination of self-regulation, consumer education and legislation, no one solution was a clear favorite.

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