08 October 2013

Fair Information Practices

'Fair Information Practices: A Basic History' [PDF] by Robert Gellman offers
a history of Fair Information Practices (FIPs) with a focus – but not an exclusive one – on activities in the United States. The text usually quotes key portions of source documents in order to allow for easier comparison of different versions of FIPs. For the most part, the analysis is neutral, with only limited interpretation, comment, and criticism. 
FIPs are a set of internationally recognized practices for addressing the privacy of information about individuals. Information privacy is a subset of privacy. Fair Information Practices are important because they provide the underlying policy for many national laws addressing privacy and data protection matters. The international policy convergence around FIPs as core elements for information privacy has remained in place since the late 1970s. Privacy laws in the United States, which are much less comprehensive in scope than laws in some other countries, often reflect some elements of FIPs but not as consistently as the laws of most other nations. 
FIPs began in the 1970s with a document from the Department of Health, Education & Welfare. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development revised the principles in a document that became influential internationally. FIPs have evolved over time, with different formulations coming from different countries and different sources over the decades. There is some evidence that Fair Information Practices may be becoming a generic trademark for privacy principles, whether or not the principles meet any particular standards. A 2013 revision by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development retained the original statement of privacy principles.