I’m zipping around the world to spread the word on consumer empowerment, privacy and child safety. Yesterday I participated in a panel at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Entitled “Consumer Empowerment via the Mobile Internet,” the panel was moderated by Ambassador David Gross and was the beginning of an entire day focused on enabling the mobile future. Other panelists included Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI – of which Yahoo! is a board member), Lynne Dorward the Group Chief Regulatory Officer at Zain, Matthias Kurth of BNetzA Germany, and H.E Mr. S Poghisio who is the Minister for Information and Communications for Kenya.
I was truly inspired by the work that my fellow panelists are doing to enable consumers across the world to access and use the Internet as never before. That is where consumer empowerment begins. We talked about new fiber optic cables that are providing Kenyans with high-speed Internet access for the first time, mobile banking that gives farmers and small businessmen in developing countries access to new commerce tools even if they don’t have a bank account, digital citizenship and safety in a world of distributed devices in the hands of young people, and the idea of self-regulatory models of governance in privacy that enable global standards that move at the speed of the Internet.
Since the Internet is truly global, I was asked about the challenges of applying a patchwork of global and even state standards to services that we provide to Yahoo!’s 500 million users around the world. I indicated that it is, indeed, hard to do and short of a miraculous global regulatory order appearing one day (think Star Trek), this will continue to be a challenge for global companies. This is why we prefer a self-regulatory model whenever possible. It’s nimble, responsive, and allows us to create a consistent, portable, and global standard. I strongly believe there is evidence to support that self-regulation can work. One of our own examples is Yahoo!’s data retention policy move from holding identifiable log file data for 13 months down to 90 days for most log file data. Such a dramatic change to minimize how long we hold identifiable data is evidence of how self-regulation helps drive innovation at a rapid pace. If a law had been passed to set a 13 month standard, it’s not at all certain that companies would be motivated to move more aggressively. This is not just self-regulation, but positive competition within the industry. In the end, consumers win.
As the title of the panel says, it is all about consumer empowerment. Giving consumers access to information, means of communication, education on how to use these powerful tools, and portable controls that help them manage safety and privacy are all part of our mission at Yahoo!.
VP Global Policy and Head of Privacy