NetChoice Welcomes U.S. Commerce Department's Increasing Role as Global Advocate for Fair and Flexible Online Privacy Regulations

Jun 14, 2010, 17:11 ET from NetChoice

WASHINGTON, June 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NetChoice today filed comments with the U.S. Department of Commerce welcoming the agency's increased role in advocating for streamlined and proactive regulations that will promote online services.  The entire comments can be found here.  

The comments were filed in response to a Commerce Department notice seeking input from online innovators regarding the agency's future role in guiding policy recommendations on U.S. and international privacy issues.  

"There is an important role for the U.S. Commerce Department in helping to harmonize regulations that protect American companies' ability to innovate in both international and domestic spaces," said Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice.  "We welcome the Commerce Department as a strong partner in the many ongoing conversations that will define the future online experience."

A Foreign and Domestic Role for the Commerce Department

Online companies welcome an increased role for the Department in promoting online commerce in a privacy-related context. Domestically, the Department should work with the FTC to step-up state and federal enforcement against unfair or deceptive information practices.  

The current process through which the FTC makes rules, as established by the Magnuson-Moss Act, is a proven and effective vehicle for the regulation of business and provides the Commission with enforcement authority to punish businesses that act in a deceptive manner or in ways that are unfair to the consumer.

On the international front, now is a critical time for online commerce as international policymakers assess their approaches to privacy. The Department can play an important role as a government-to-government advocate for flexible international rules to promote continued innovation and economic growth.  

As an international spokesman for online service innovation, the Department should promote privacy laws that are flexible enough to permit innovation, and oppose static laws that undermine consumer interests in improved online services. And as a government agency speaking to other government agencies, the Department can bring credibility and leverage that cannot be matched by corporate interests alone.

Specifically, the Department can work with foreign regulatory authorities and multi-governmental organizations to develop new mechanisms for achieving mutual recognition. The EU's policy toward Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs) could emerge as a key element of a mutual recognition framework. BCRs are corporate codes of conduct that legally bind a company and its partners to EU-compliant data management systems. BCRs allow companies to share personal data on EU citizens, in-house and worldwide.

However, BCRs represent a serious commitment for companies, and they are out of reach for most American companies. They require extensive time and financial resources to implement. There are also ongoing costs for compliance, internal control and supervision, and auditing.

The Department should work with the European Commission to greatly simplify the BCR process and make it more accessible to small businesses.

"Privacy is the defining issue of 2010," said DelBianco. "The Department of Commerce can help develop rules that respect consumer privacy while also guaranteeing one of our nation's most important industries the freedom to grow and innovate."

NetChoice is an advocacy organization that fights threats to online commerce and promotes policies that protect Internet innovation and communication on a state, federal and international basis.  The Washington, DC-based group protects Internet commerce-driven competition and battles rules that hinder consumer choice and hurt small businesses.

SOURCE NetChoice