It’s not every day the U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls for regulation, but when it comes to data privacy, that is exactly what we are doing. We recognize the significant role technology and data play to improve people’s lives and opportunities, whether through autonomous transportation, connecting with a medical professional on a smartphone, or enterprise solutions fostered by artificial intelligence. Given this impact on consumers and businesses, the Chamber took the lead and developed privacy principles in coordination with nearly 200 businesses of all sizes and sectors.
In assessing the current landscape, including congressional hearings on data issues, the recently passed California privacy law, and the implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, two things are clear.
First, data is inherently interstate. A consumer may reside in one state and do business with a company in another state that stores data in yet a third state. That means real and workable data privacy has to be implemented at the federal level. Second, now is the time to have a national conversation on solutions to data privacy. These regulations must protect consumers, while at the same time not stifle the innovation, convenience, and consumer choice we all demand.
There is a lot on the line and policymakers have to get it right. That’s why the Chamber put forward privacy principles to use as a guide for model legislation.
We support a smart, clear, and balanced framework. First and foremost, consumers’ privacy should be respected, and businesses should live up to their promises on data use. This is best achieved through a nationwide privacy framework: one clear set of privacy rules and regulations from which to operate, as opposed to a state-by-state patchwork approach that causes confusion and makes compliance with all jurisdictions almost impossible.
These rules should allow for flexibility in order to encourage the development of privacy innovation within the technology sector, and privacy considerations should be incorporated into product and service design.
Technology and the responsible use of data are essential to the United States’ continued global economic leadership. It’s essential too that our elected officials and regulators understand the benefits of technology before deciding to govern over it and pick winners and losers on the political winds.
You don’t have to look very far to see the benefits of innovation powered by data. In fact, as I discuss the issue of privacy with business leaders, I continually hear how they are enlisting data to solve some of our most pressing global issues – and everyday ones. From disaster relief coordinated by a drone to the use of autonomous vehicles to reduce traffic deaths to blockchain technology that helps a family farmer increase their crop yield while prioritizing sustainability – the important uses are endless.
Data is the building block for products and services, and as we weigh privacy protections for data, we should consider such regulation in light of the benefits provided and risks presented.
To be clear: data driven innovation is compatible with privacy regulations, and the Chamber’s principles provide the proper outline to balance the protection of consumers’ data with enabling the use of data to improve our lives. Lawmakers should seek this balance as they set out to enact legislation on this issue.
Tim Day is senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber’s Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC).