Regulatory Reform

Consumer Electronics Show: A New Year with Promising New Technologies

The Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was abuzz with the ‘Internet of Things.’ The CES exhibit revealed parents monitoring babies via digital onesies and consumers asking refrigerators what groceries to buy. Tech giants are certainly ringing in the New Year with creative products, services and experiences.

Yet, new products mean new privacy concerns. As with all nascent technologies—from Bitcoin to Google Glass—government’s initial reaction is to regulate away privacy or security concerns. This year, CES panelists from the tech community warned against the kind of preemptive regulatory intervention that impedes innovation in the tech sphere.

Even Washington regulators at the 2014 CES event cautioned against overregulating emergent technologies. FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen broached the main cause of discordance between government officials and the tech community when she referenced the need to balance privacy concerns with “regulatory humility.”

Commissioner Ohlhausen also alluded to one of the most powerful tools protecting consumers’ privacy concerns: the market economy. “Companies offering these products as part of the Internet of Things act to safeguard the privacy of users to avoid giving the technology a bad name while it is still in its infancy,” said Commissioner Ohlhausen.

The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Communication and Technology Task Force believes the market economy empowers Americans to demand that products and services are provided in a manner that alleviates their privacy concerns. While the Constitution contains no express right to privacy, Americans’ basis for privacy is confirmed by the US Supreme Court, which it has inferred from the Constitution, Bill of Rights and common law that a right to privacy does, in fact, exist.

Given the trade-off between innovation and privacy, the Communications and Technology Task Force pioneered a hands-off regulatory approach in the technology sector. ALEC’s Six Principles for Communications and Technology focus on pursuing industry-driven standards and deregulation when possible, while ensuring simple and certain standards for those regulations deemed necessary.

The impulsive reaction to regulate away citizens’ privacy concerns is natural, but policymakers must look to the Internet as the result of the regulatory humility. The Internet is only capable of providing consumers with the digitally connected devices at CES because policymakers made a conscious effort to allow experimentation. All that the ‘Internet of Things’ will provide Americans in the future remains unknown; it is imperative that policymakers let the sector breathe so that future Americans can benefit from these unforeseen technologies.

In Depth: Regulatory Reform

In his first inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson said that “the sum of good government” was one “which shall restrain men from injuring one another” and “shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry.” Sadly, governments – both federal and state – have ignored this axiom and…

+ Regulatory Reform In Depth