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116th Congress: Please develop balanced digital privacy policy

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Hailing a ride to the airport from an app, managing your finances from the couch, video chatting with your family from miles away — the world as we know it has seen some real changes over the last ten years and it’s all a result of the innovative and creative ideas that entrepreneurs have brought to life. Not only do startups break down borders, but they also contribute to the global economy by creating jobs anywhere and everywhere — from coastal urban areas to the farmlands of the Midwest. These technological innovations were built with today’s consumer in mind, however, our privacy laws were not.

American innovators big and small need regulatory certainty in order to design the products and services of tomorrow and sadly, countries who have attempted to establish comprehensive data protection legislation have missed the mark.

Last May, the European Union (EU) introduced the most comprehensive piece of privacy legislation in history, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and Asia is on the verge of passing its own legislation. These privacy regulations and the uncertainties they bring have already started to stiffen startup growth and in turn, restrict innovation.{mosads}

Privacy legislation is vital to ensure consumer protection, but if all stakeholders aren’t taken into account, it can do more harm than good. As the 116th Congress begins, America — a country built on entrepreneurial success — has the chance to learn from mistakes other countries have made and lead the way on drafting comprehensive privacy legislation that takes all voices into account.

Privacy regulations in the EU have caused more uncertainty than clarity. In fact, many believe that these regulations have forced startups to either stay local or not enter the EU in the first place. According to data provider, Dealroom, the amount of money the average EU startup earned per week was down 40-percent compared to before the rules came into force.

America has the chance to develop legislation that would set the table for what global regulatory framework could look like. And as the most diverse, ambitious Congress begins, it’s on government officials to develop strategic, not reactive, policy that takes all types and sizes of companies and consumers, in America and around the world into account.

In July, the White House said it was looking forward to working with Congress on “a consumer privacy protection policy that is the appropriate balance between privacy and prosperity.” That was over six months ago and we have yet to see any serious commitment from Congress. While bills have been introduced with partisan support, it’s on the 116th Congress to work together to create policy that both sides of the aisle can agree on and drive forward.

Almost everyone and anyone — from big tech companies to consumer protection organizations to state lawmakers — has proposed draft privacy laws; however, the most effective legislation will be driven by the federal government. Any state regulations will result in a confusing patchwork set of laws that stifles innovation. We have seen how difficult it is with 28 different rules in 28 member states in the EU — let’s not replicate that mess in the United States.

Data protection is of paramount importance to American consumers and startups. Entrepreneurs across the country are ready and eager to help craft federal data protection laws that protect consumer data as well as encourage innovation and economic growth from companies both large and small.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said 2019 is the year they will take legislative action on privacy regulations and our new Congress is perfectly positioned to ensure America maintains its place as an innovative powerhouse by creating balanced privacy policy.

Melissa Blaustein is the founder and CEO of Allied for Startups, a global network for startups, entrepreneurs, VCs, and advocacy organizations working together to build a worldwide consensus on key public policy issues impacting startups. Allied for Startups is headquartered in Brussels and has been closely involved in discussions surrounding the digital single market in the EU. Follow them on Twitter @Allied4Startups

Tags Consumer privacy Information privacy Internet privacy Privacy Privacy policy

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