Toward a Level International Playing Field In Online Services
Today President Obama gave a speech and issued a Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) surrounding the reforms he is making to the National Security Agency and international intelligence gathering in general. In the PPD, the President recognized that collection of signals intelligence poses risks to “our commercial, economic, and financial interests, including a potential loss of international trust in U.S. firms.” While it was gratifying to see the President grappling with the issues that we’ve been exploring for months, the actual policy changes proposed were high level and the devil, as they say, will be in the details.
There must be at least some hope, however. We have, today, policies regarding when the U.S. government will collect information on foreigners and how it will treat that information when it is collected. People everywhere can begin making decisions about which online services to trust with our data based on the features of the service and their respect for our data — rather than the geographical location of the service itself.
For many months now, the focus of commerce on the Internet has been a connection to the United States. If the U.S. government follows through on some of the privacy protections that everyone deserves, it will be a start that can bring us back to the ideal world where companies from everywhere compete on their products rather than the surveillance performed by governments.
Some, if not all of society’s most useful innovations are the byproduct of competition. In fact, although it may sound counterintuitive, innovation often flourishes when an incumbent is threatened by a new entrant because the threat of losing users to the competition drives product improvement. The Internet and the products and companies it has enabled are no exception; companies need to constantly stay on their toes, as the next startup is ready to knock them down with a better product.
Companies rely on clear, predictable rules that facilitate digital trade to export their products and services around the world. These rules include balancing the competing interests between encouraging investment and enabling information access; promoting the free flow of information online; and maintaining balanced intermediary liability regimes.
New technologies are constantly emerging that promise to change our lives for the better. These disruptive technologies give us an increase in choice, make technologies more accessible, make things more affordable, and give consumers a voice. And the pace of innovation has only quickened in recent years, as the Internet has enabled a wave of new, inter-connected devices that have benefited consumers around the world, seemingly in all aspects of their lives. Preserving an innovation-friendly market is, therefore, tantamount not only to businesses but society at large.
Trust in the integrity and security of the Internet and associated products and services is essential to its success as a platform for digital communication and commerce. For this reason we’re committed to upholding and advocating for policymaking that empowers consumers to make informed choices in the marketplace while not impeding new business models.