March 01, 2001, 11:58 AM — MANY VENDORS ARE now so daunted by the prospect of scattered state legislation mandating privacy practices that they have rallied around the idea of new federal privacy laws.
The Washington-based AEA, which recently officially changed its name from the American Electronics Association, on Thursday said its member companies had agreed that a one-shot federal law would be far preferable to state efforts.
"We think a hodge-podge of 50 state laws would put a damper on e-commerce," said a spokesman for the group.
One of the larger industry associations, AEA and its 3,500 member companies had so far not come together on the issue of whether the federal government should regulate privacy. But at the end of the last Congress, pockets of the tech industry seemed to be warming to the idea of a federal bill.
For instance, Hewlett-Packard, America Online, and the Walt Disney Co. have got behind the Consumer Privacy Enforcement Act, a bill introduced by Arizona Republican Senator John McCain.
In putting forth its position on privacy, AEA officials warned, however, that legislation should not be overly burdensome to industry. The group warned that shoddily crafted measures would hurt both businesses and consumers.
Among the privacy principles contained in the AEA platform are some of the mainstay practices touted by industry and lawmakers. Specifically, AEA claims businesses should be required to provide notice to individuals about data being collected, that opt-out principles should be supported, and that policy-makers should take into account privacy seal programs and private sector efforts already underway.
Since online privacy now registers as an issue with most Americans, many lawmakers in the coming congressional session are expected to be ready to move on some measure to replace industry's self-regulation efforts with statutes governing data collection and use practices.