Thomas J. Donohue Thomas J. Donohue
Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


September 10, 2018


The challenges and complexities of living, working, and doing business in a digital world were on full display last week when lawmakers on Capitol Hill grilled tech leaders on a variety of hot topics. One was data privacy, an issue of huge significance to businesses and consumers alike.

When data are used responsibly, they lead to new opportunities and efficiencies in education, entertainment, health care, employment, and business creation. Data-driven innovation also enables consumers to take advantage of faster, better, and more customizable services at lower costs. It’s in everyone’s interest to safeguard data through smart policies that promote innovation, provide regulatory certainty, and respect individual privacy and choice.

To that end, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been a leading proponent for a data privacy framework that provides clear and consistent guidelines. The Chamber’s Technology Engagement Center, or C_TEC, recently released several principles for data privacy that will achieve those goals.

First, a data privacy framework must be nationwide. While the U.S. already has a history of robust privacy protection, Congress should adopt a federal policy that preempts state law. Otherwise, consumers and businesses will be left to navigate a patchwork of confusing and inconsistent rules.

Second, the policy must emphasize transparency. Businesses must be open about how they collect, use, and share consumer data. They must clearly communicate their privacy policies to help earn their customers’ trust – and keep their business.

Third, it must ensure flexibility in order to promote innovation. Privacy policies must not include mandates that require businesses to use specific technology to implement consumer protection. Instead, they should provide safe harbors and other incentives for businesses to develop fast, nimble, and consumer-friendly privacy programs that keep up with rapidly evolving technology.

C_TEC worked closely with industry stakeholders and leaders on Capitol Hill and in the administration to come up with our guiding principles. Given our large and diverse membership, the Chamber is a natural leader on an issue that has such sweeping implications for businesses, consumers, and our economy. As lawmakers eye legislative solutions, we urge them to consider these thoughtfully developed principles.

But we better act quickly. California is moving forward with a precedent-setting privacy law that will place undue burden on businesses, and other states are sure to follow. The trial bar already senses that a lawsuit bonanza is in the offing, as more consumer data are exposed to cyberattacks while our nation lacks coherent and consistent privacy policies.

The time is now for smart, effective, and thoughtful solutions to this complex challenge.

About the authors

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue is advisor and former chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Read more