Top US execs pressure Congress to withhold Net privacy law

We'll do it ourselves, you can trust us say IBM, GM, Amazon

Top execs from IBM, General Motors, Amazon.com and Proctor & Gamble put pressure on the US Congress not to draw up legislation aimed at protecting customers' privacy while shopping online. The companies argue they can look after people's privacy themselves.

At the sixth and last hearing on information privacy by the sub-committee on commerce, trade and consumer protection yesterday, VP of policy at Amazon.com Paul Misener (who has the most to lose) said: "We believe market forces are working and, thus, believe there is no inherent need for legislation." He also reckons a law covering privacy should cover both online and offline transactions.

Ms Harriet Pearson, the chief privacy officer at IBM, reckoned we should build on current law and the best model would be "a layered approach of responsible industry action, consumer-empowering technology, and targeted government action". Besides, most of its customers are corporates anyway.

Mr Zeke Swift from Procter & Gamble argued that consumers are the ones that benefit most from new technology - because they get targeted offers and services [sorry Zeke but that's bollocks]. He also stressed the transparency of his company's privacy policies.

Ms Jacqueline Hourigan of General Motors didn't argue against new legislation but did ask that the government keep talking to industry so "the approach adopted does not result in legislation that would be burdensome, impractical and would produce unintended consequences". She reckons new technologies will enable consumers to "control the type of information they receive and the manner in which they receive it".

Billy Tauzin, the Republican chairman of the committee, was backing them to the hilt. He said the fears over consumer safety may be "imagined". He went on to list (twist) common complaints against US companies (exploit consumers, don’t try to maintain good customer relations, find new customers to replace dissatisfied ones, don’t think that their brand name is that important, don’t care about consumer privacy) and said that none of these fitted in with what he knew of US companies.

He is clearly as biased as a budgie (that our new phrase btw).

In fact, there were no people at the last hearing supporting new laws for restricting companies' use of easily attainable information using the Internet. Not surprising considering all the folk there stand to benefit enormously if no law is introduced.

However, earlier hearings have covered a huge range of people with views on this. Congress really has got the Internet democracy idea off pat and all the speeches made at all the hearings are available here if you want to know more. The last hearing can be found here. ®

Related Links

The subcommittee's Web pages
The last hearing

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