Secretary Daley Urges Online Industry to Act on Self-Regulation

(June 24, 1998)  Secretary of Commerce William Daley admonished companies that do business online to quickly adopt and enforce privacy principles, or else government regulators will do it for them.

Daley's address opened a two day conference in Washington DC on online privacy.   The conference has attracted several hundred representatives of industry, government, privacy groups, children's groups, civil rights groups, media, and other entities.

Related Page: HTML Copy of Daley's Address.

"I want self-regulation to work," said Daley.  In contrast, the Federal Trade Commission, and others, have already advocated more legislation, and more government power to regulate the Internet.

Secretary Daley stated that:

"The President is well aware of the importance of information technologies.   He is well aware they have accounted for a quarter or our economic growth, in an economy that is the best in a generation.  He is well aware that declining computer prices have kept inflation down ... and that e-commerce can soon be a $300 billion business.  He does not want government doing anything that would mess up all of that success.  So, in the last year, his approach has been: the private sector should lead."

A newly formed industry group, the Online Privacy Alliance, is studying ways for industry to self-regulate itself, and has already made some proposals.  Daley stated that the Clinton Administration is closely examining its proposals, but industry must move more swiftly to draft an effective plan to enforce privacy rules or face inevitable government regulation of electronic commerce.

"I see this conference as your chance to show me your goods. And I very much want to, in turn, show the President why industry leadership is much better than Washington intervention," said Daley. However, "Articulating principles isn't adequate. There has to be some meaningful consequences to companies that don't comply."

Daley said public concern over Internet privacy is so high that the government will have no choice but to intervene unless industry puts teeth in its self-regulatory plan. "More than 80 percent of Americans are concerned about threats to their privacy when they are on-line. More than 90 percent want business telling them how they will use personal information. Consumers will want government to intervene," Daley said. "I want self-regulation to work, but if self-regulation doesn't work, we'll have to consider other options," Daley told the conference.

"I sincerely hope industry steps up to the plate, first.  But if it doesn't we will have to consider all the options we have for protecting the American consumer.   ...  It would be a shame on you, a shame on all of the wonderful good that you have done, if government now has to intervene.  And let me be frank- I don't want to hear griping and moaning from any of you, if that happens."

The event is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Office of International Affairs.  It is being held in the Department of Commerce Auditorium at 14th and Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.  The meeting is open to the public.  Further information about the conference can be found in the NTIA's Privacy Summit website.

Secretary Daley departed after his early morning opening address.   However, NTIA Assistant Secretary of Commerce Larry Irving also addressed the conference, and remained for much of the subsequent addresses and panel discussions.