“The world has gone wireless,” said commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). “In the coming years, we will have 11 times the amount of mobile traffic we have today. Combine that with the Internet of Things, and we are getting ready for a tidal wave.”

Rosenworcel spoke at a July 23 event on technology policy hosted by The Hill in Washington, DC, with discussions ranging from telecommunications innovation and net neutrality to the ever-MR-favorites of data privacy and security.

FTC Commissioner Julie Brill (one of the top 10 government players in consumer data privacy) told the audience that the U.S. has “done a good job of identifying sensitive areas that need to be protected,” but data doesn’t flow in the kind of “silos” for which U.S. privacy law was defined (e.g., Gramm Leach Bliley for financial information and HIPAA for medical information). She repeated a familiar call for Congress to pass a comprehensive consumer data privacy law. Brill also emphasized the importance of a federal data security law, different than the patchwork of all the various state laws. “Privacy and security are two sides of the same coin.”

MRA has been a part of the call for both moves by Congress, but with a different emphasis than Commissioner Brill’s. Instead of big comprehensive privacy law, we’ve been looking for a baseline, something that will provide the basic protections demanded by consumers that can’t be provided simply through self-regulation, but without the complex restrictions that can crush the marketplace like those devised in past years by Senator John Kerry and Congressman Bobby Rush. We also would love to see a federal data security law to preempt that state patchwork, although we fight to limit the FTC’s ability to expand the definition of covered personal information (and have won before).

Dean Garfield, CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC), commented that “we live in a society largely driven by 21st century technology, but our regulation and regulatory mechanisms are based on 20th century frameworks.” If many of us get anxious about being caught without our mobile devices, he asked, “shouldn’t we get just as upset when our policymakers ignore policies that would advance our technical future?”

Although any major legislation along these lines seems unlikely to become law before the end of 2014, MRA will continue to push and build for a positive policy future for the research profession.