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NetChoice to Commerce Department: Be Our Advocate Over There, Over Here

Now is a critical time for online commerce as policymakers assess their approaches to privacy. And as NetChoice says in our comments filed today, now is the perfect time for the Department of Commerce to be more involved in privacy issues.


What? We’re calling for more government involvement in a politically charged issue? Yes, and here’s why it’s an appropriate response to the Commerce Dept’s Notice of Inquiry.


Data flows today are much more complex than they were even a decade ago.  Simple one-way transfers between one country and another have been replaced by multinational corporations that transfer data across multiple jurisdictions on a daily basis.


Because of this, privacy-related laws and regulation can have a broad impact on the growth of online commerce, not just here in the U.S. but across the globe. And as a voice for commerce, the Department of Commerce should promote pro-commerce policies over there (EU, Asia, elsewhere) and over here (in the U.S.).


Here’s what we say in our comments:


  • The Commerce Department should act as an international ambassador for innovative American online companies.  The Department can play an important role as a government-to-government advocate for flexible international rules to promote continued innovation and economic growth.  And as a government agency speaking to other government agencies, the Commerce Department can bring credibility and leverage that cannot be matched by corporate interests alone.
  • Domestically, the Commerce Department should work with the FTC to step-up state and federal enforcement against unfair or deceptive information practices. Aggressive enforcement will help foster a better climate for innovation than would expanded regulation. New regulations are followed only by legitimate businesses who were already complying with the old regulations. Bad actors, on the other hand, ignore both old and new regulations with impunity (e.g., Spammers are still spamming even after the FTC issued new regulations pursuant to the CAN-SPAM Act).


But whether it is overseas or here in the U.S., we advocate that the Commerce Department promote a privacy framework that is flexible enough to permit innovation, and that opposes static laws that undermine consumer interests in improved online services.


-Braden Cox