Daley: Don’t Make Us Step In

In a speech addressing the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Privacy Summit in Washington, D.C. today, Commerce Secretary William M. Daley warned Internet companies that unless they keep a close eye on online privacy the government could get involved.

Complaining that companies were slow to respond with self-regulatory plans, Daley said: “I see this conference as your chance to show me your goods. And I very much want to then show the President why industry leadership is much better than Washington intervention.”

Daley said he was pleased with yesterday’s announcement that 50 Internet companies and associations had formed The Online Privacy Alliance. Members include Internet heavyweights America Online and Microsoft, as well as business organizations such as the Direct Marketing Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

But Daley expressed frustration upon learning the Alliance would not have an enforcement proposal ready for review until September 15.

“Frankly, I’m disappointed I have to wait another day to hear how the industry plans to police itself,” Daley said. “I hope they report to me sooner than September 15th. I told them, as I will tell you: articulating principles isn’t adequate. There has to be a way to enforce this that the consumer can trust, or this won’t work. There has to be some meaningful consequences to companies that don’t comply.”

In his remarks Daley hailed plans by TRUSTe and The Better Business Bureau who both announced yesterday their plans to implement privacy programs.

Finally, Daley addressed criticism he encountered in backing the industry’s self-regulatory efforts: “To be frank, I have taken some hits for supporting the industry on self-regulation. There are people who think industry has been dancing around, avoiding the real issues, buying time–and government should step up to the plate. 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,” Daley warned. “I don’t recall another time in history when a President said if you deal with a problem, we won’t have to.”

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