Businesses in general, and technology companies in particular, tend to regard increased federal regulation with the distaste usually reserved for blind, furry crabs. That’s why the recent spectacle of big business petitioning the government to pass the laws is so intriguing. The Consumer Privacy Legislative Forum today released a statement calling on Congress to enact a comprehensive data privacy bill that would help reassure consumers that their private information is safe both online and off.
If the Consumer Privacy Legislative Forum were just another in the long line of consumer-oriented nonprofits who regularly call for such legislation, we in the Orbiting HQ might look down from on high with a shrug. After all, data privacy violations have been in the headlines for years, yet the federal government still has no comprehensive plan to deal with the problem. What makes the CPLF’s announcement interesting, though, is that it’s signed by major technology players like Intel, eBay, Microsoft, Oracle, Google, Sun Microsystems, and Hewlett-Packard.
The group calls for a “serious process to consider comprehensive harmonized federal privacy legislation to create a simplified, uniform but flexible legal framework.” The statement is short on specific proposals, but does include several areas of general interest that need to be addressed at the national level, including the ways that businesses collect and store personal information, the control consumers have over that information, and ways to prevent that information from falling into the wrong hands.
This has been an important issue to Microsoft for some time, and Google has decided to throw its weight behind the proposal as well.
"On an Internet beset with spyware, malware, phishing, identity-theft, and other privacy threats, enforcement of privacy protections has become an industry-wide challenge, and highlights the lack of a coherent regulatory structure. Google strongly supports the adoption of a federal consumer privacy law. It would be good for our users, and would contribute to consumer trust on the Internet as a platform for communication, expression, e-commerce, and so forth. Americans care about their privacy, and so does Google."
As Google points out in their statement, these companies have a powerful business incentive to care about this issue. Consumer worries about Internet privacy and security could have a detrimental effect on every one of these businesses if not addressed in a meaningful way. Right now, that task has been handled at the state level, even though the issue is one of national importance. Congress has recently shown some willingness to act on the matter and has introduced bills an attempt to deal with the worst privacy abuses. Still, no comprehensive piece of data privacy legislation currently seems to be in the works, and the technology sector wants action before consumers get so fed up with the Internet’s ills that they stop using it.