CDT Issues Comments on Department of Commerce Privacy Report
Last week, CDT submitted comments in response to a “green paper” on consumer privacy that was recently released by the Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force. The green paper articulated the Task Force’s recommendations for a new U.S. privacy framework, one that would promote both consumer protection and American innovation.
In our comments, CDT applauded the Task Force for taking on a leadership role on the issue of privacy, both domestically and internationally. CDT expressed strong support for the Task Force’s decision to recommend the adoption of the full range of Fair Information Practice Principles across all industries that collect and use consumer data. We strongly agree with the finding that a robust privacy framework is needed not just by consumers, but by businesses as well. The U.S.’s lack of basic protections is starting to become a competitive disadvantage for American companies, as global customers are increasingly wary of storing data here. Moreover, without baseline protections in place, the U.S. lacks the credibility to argue for the free flow of information across borders.
Fundamentally, CDT believes that a new privacy framework can only be accomplished through comprehensive privacy legislation, and in our comments we urged that approach as the appropriate means to implement a new privacy protection framework. The Task Force has recommended that Commerce initiate a multi-stakeholder process, with voluntary involvement from industry, to help devise industry-specific implementations of privacy rules. In our comments, CDT cautioned that it will be difficult if not impossible to incentivize all industry players to agree and adhere to such rules unless legislation establishes a common floor of privacy protection. In the modern technology landscape, increasingly smaller, edge players such as mobile “apps” developers are gaining access to large amounts of sensitive consumer information. Voluntary standards are unlikely to encompass all the new participants in the increasingly complex information ecosystem. Furthermore, without baseline protections that apply to everyone, new uses of consumer information will start out with the current “no rules” default, and regulators and advocates will be forced to play catch up and try to retroactively append privacy protections to engrained business practices.
CDT looks forward to working with the Task Force as it continues to take a strong leadership role on protecting consumer privacy and promoting American innovation.