Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
April 16, 2018
Recent concerns over data privacy have highlighted a sense of unease that Americans feel about the increasing power of technology companies in our economy and our lives. Many of the concerns contributing to this anxiety are legitimate and pose important legislative and regulatory questions. In seeking to answer these questions, however, policymakers and regulators should exercise caution to avoid inflicting lasting damage on our economy and America’s global competitiveness brought about by the ever-evolving tech sector.
Since the internet took off in the mid-1990s and sparked the modern tech era, this sector of our economy has been one of the most explosive generators of growth in our history. From e-commerce to social media to the app economy to the gig economy, innovators and entrepreneurs have capitalized on the democratic tenets of the tech ecosystem by creating new products designed to tackle problems faced by Americans every day. As a result, millions of people benefit daily from these advances. Yet these breakthroughs have also caused disruption.
This is not the first time our economy has experienced disruption. Government has a history of responding to innovations with new laws and regulations. In some cases, those responses were hasty and not based on evidence—failing to prioritize the concerns of Americans and unnecessarily stifling the innovative nature of the American economy. It is important for Congress to remember these lessons learned as they strive to strike the delicate balance between safety, privacy, and innovation.
It is also imperative that our maturing debate on technology’s role in our society is grounded in facts and evidence—that while we consider the risks, we equally weigh the rewards. America’s economy has undoubtedly benefited from the entrepreneurial nature of the tech ecosystem, as well as the products it has produced.
Finally, it is important to appropriately classify technology in our conversations. Technology and technology companies have injected efficiencies into American businesses—large and small—across industries. This highlights the complexity and significance of the regulatory conversations ahead of us.
Tackling these challenges won’t be easy, especially given the accelerated rate of innovation in the tech sector. But smart and appropriate action is possible if all the relevant parties work together to thoughtfully evaluate our current challenges and depend on data and evidence to guide those conversations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce looks forward to engaging in this process and continuing our work to support responsible and effective tech policy.
About the authors
Thomas J. Donohue
Thomas J. Donohue is advisor and former chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.