Panel Recommends Limited Government Role on Internet : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Panel Recommends Limited Government Role on Internet By David McGuire, Newsbytes March 15, 2000

There are steps the federal government can take to facilitate the Internet's growth and make it safer for children and consumers, but those steps must be very limited, a panel made up of lawmakers and government officials agreed today.

"I believe that government regulation at this time is premature" in the privacy arena, said Commissioner Orson Swindle of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), during a panel discussion at the 2000 Global Internet Summit here. "Legislation motivated by the passions of an election year could (stifle) e-commerce."

Swindle was joined by representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the business community and a pair of US Congressmen on a panel aimed at discussing the ideal role of government in the thorny areas of cybercrime and online privacy.

Swindle cited recent survey data indicating that a majority of Internet users worry about online privacy. While he conceded that the public has grave concerns relating to the privacy of their online transactions he said that such concerns should give the business community "every incentive" to self-regulate.

Council of Better Business Bureaus attorney Steven Cole agreed with Swindle's assessment. While industry self-regulatory efforts in the area of privacy have yet to take a "firm hold" among e-commerce vendors, they offer the best chance to protect privacy without stifling the Internet's growth, Cole said.

"Our standards are developed by industry, not to industry," Cole said. The Council of Better Business Bureaus' BBBOnline privacy seal program is held up as a prime example of industry self-regulation in the area of Internet privacy .

And while Michael Vatis, who heads up the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), said that the Federal Government does have a role to play in guarding against Internet crime, he agreed with Swindle and Cole that the real responsibility for making sure the Internet is safe and private lies with the Internet industry.

"The government's role is limited" to issuing warnings and investigating Internet attacks, he said.

On hand to give the Capitol Hill perspective on the related issues of Internet crime and online privacy were Reps. Rick Boucher, D-Va., and Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

Goodlatte and Boucher, who co-chair the House Internet Caucus also agreed with the notion of a light-touch regulatory approach, but did address a few areas where they say the government can strengthen the Internet and e-commerce.

Boucher said that speedy approval of digital signatures legislation would serve to further validate the Internet as a business tool by making electronically signed contracts legally binding. He also said that legislation aimed at cutting down on unsolicited consumer e-mail would strengthen consumer confidence in the Internet.

Both Boucher and Goodlatte said that the government needs to do more to speed the widespread deployment of broadband Internet access.

-- Jen Bunker (, March 15, 2000

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