Privacy as a competition issue was a focus at the Senate
Commerce Committee’s hearing
on online privacy Thursday.
Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz said having privacy rules could help provide
a level playing field between companies that have privacy policies and those
Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen said,
however, said something to be cautious of is enacting privacy rules in a way
that favors incumbent companies, which already have lots of data, compared to companies just starting up.
She told senators, “new restrictions may also have an effect
on competition by favoring entrenched entities that already have consumer
information over new entrants who need to obtain such information, or
encouraging industry consolidation for purposes of sharing data. As a competition agency, the FTC should
be sensitive to these concerns as well.
Ohlhausen said she wanted to see what voluntary privacy
measures companies are taking ahead of new regulations.
In a response to a question, Chairman Leibowitz also told
senators that he is seeing more
companies using their privacy policies as a means of attracting users and
competing against similar online services.
CCIA President & CEO Ed Black has said that privacy used
as a competition point is a good thing because it allows Internet users choice
when it comes to the often competing goals of privacy versus the abundance of
free content and services.