Feb 25, 2019 - 9:00am

Establishing Clear Rules of the Road on Data Privacy


President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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An attendee inspects a P20 Pro smartphone, manufactured by Huawei Technologies Co.
An attendee inspects a smartphone in Paris, France.

At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we believe it is possible to both protect individual privacy and promote technological innovation. That’s why we unveiled model legislation this month that secures important new data privacy rights while providing businesses with the regulatory certainty they need to grow our economy and better serve consumers. 

Data, when used responsibly, are invaluable to innovation, leading to new opportunities in education, entertainment, health care, and business creation. Likewise, data benefit consumers, who are able to take advantage of better services at lower costs. That’s why it’s in everyone’s interest to protect data through smart policies that ensure regulatory clarity and individual privacy. To achieve both, the Chamber has taken the lead in drafting a privacy framework that provides clear and consistent guidelines. 

It’s not every day that the Chamber asks for regulation. But data privacy is an important exception for two reasons. First, we believe that the responsible use of data is critical to business success. Second, we recognize that federal regulation in this arena is desperately needed to preempt a patchwork of state privacy laws that would make interstate commerce all but impossible. If we don’t act now on a national level, then a flurry of conflicting state regulations will fill the void, causing headaches for companies and consumers alike. 

That’s why enacting a federal data privacy law is among our top priorities. Through our data privacy working group, we spearheaded a massive cross-industry effort to develop a proposal that puts everyone on the same page under one unifying federal framework. The logic is simple: It’s far easier for businesses to operate under a single nationwide policy than having to navigate a labyrinth of idiosyncratic state privacy laws. Creating a coherent and consistent privacy policy would also preclude the lawsuit bonanza that would ensue without one. By establishing clear rules of the road, we can better protect individual privacy and avoid a 50-car pileup in the courtroom. 

In addition to providing regulatory certainty, our proposal gives consumers important new rights. Specifically, it would allow consumers to see how their personal information is being used through easy-to-access privacy policies. It would also allow them to see how their information is being shared with outside parties. Consumers could even ask businesses to stop sharing their information or delete it altogether. 

By striking the right balance between innovation and individual privacy, we can empower businesses to pioneer the next generation of life-changing technologies. For this reason, we urge lawmakers to carefully consider our model legislation.

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About the Author

About the Author

Thomas J. Donohue
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thomas J. Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.