On Wednesday, I had the privilege of representing AT&T at the Senate Commerce Committee hearing examining safeguards for consumer data privacy. AT&T has long supported comprehensive federal privacy legislation to protect consumers and give businesses clear and consistent guidelines on the collection and use of consumer data. I was gratified to hear a growing consensus among internet service providers, Silicon Valley tech companies and Members of the Committee about the need for federal legislation and, even more importantly, common principles to guide this legislation. These shared principles underscored the importance of transparency, consumer empowerment and choice, data security, and consistency in application and enforcement of the law to all players in the internet ecosystem, regardless of the company collecting the data and the technology used. I also appreciated the thoughtful discussion about preemption, and the bipartisan recognition of its significance.
We thank and commend the Committee for convening this conversation and for its vital work on this pressing issue. And we are encouraged to hear that the Committee will continue this important discussion with other stakeholders, including consumer groups, in the coming weeks.
It’s important for everyone to understand that collection of information today is widespread. It happens when you walk in a retail store, drive your car, buy your groceries, visit a social media site and search the internet. It also happens on millions of apps, games and websites, where technology running in the background captures what you are accessing, reading and viewing. While this should give us all pause, it is equally important to recognize that there are consumer interests on both sides of the privacy question. Responsible use of data offers many consumer benefits, including lower prices, more choices and greater convenience; it powers many of the free, relevant and discounted services that American consumers enjoy every day.
The challenge for Congress is to define the framework that fully protects and empowers consumers concerning their personal information and privacy while, at the same time, not impeding the innovation and consumer benefits that flow from responsible use of information. Easy? No. But it was clear on Wednesday that we are all up for the challenge. There are many issues to discuss and details to resolve, but I’m confident common ground can be found. AT&T wants to be a constructive voice in finding a real and durable solution. We thank Chairman Thune, Ranking Member Nelson and all the Senators on the Committee for a very constructive hearing. We look forward to working with Congress and other stakeholders to establish a nationwide set of privacy protections that treat consumers with respect and provide strong and uniform safeguards while fostering innovation and competition through the authority of the Federal Trade Commission as the nation’s privacy regulator.