E-Commerce Trade Association Opposes Slew of Pro-Consumer Proposals


NetChoice, a “trade association of eCommerce businesses and online consumers” representing big tech names including Facebook, Yahoo, eBay, NewsCorp, Reed Elsevier, LivingSocial, and Aol, released a list of what it considers to be “the worst internet laws in America” — but many of the bills it targets would be good for consumers.

NetChoice’s May 2013 iAWFUL (“Internet Advocate’s Watchlist for Ugly Laws”) list rattles off eight types of proposals opposed by the group, many of which appear to be targeted because they may threaten the profit margins of the group’s constituent companies.

Here are three specific instances where the most recent iAWFUL list puts corporate interests before consumer rights or protections:

  1. Accuses California privacy bills of being an “assault on the internet”: While NetChoice points out that some state-level privacy proposals in California have been conflicting, such as one that requires simplified, 100-word privacy policies versus another that requires privacy policies to be more detailed, the group also attacks a bill that merely gives consumers the ability to request what data about them has been given to which third parties and another that updates privacy requirements for mobile apps.
  2. Claims state level data breach notification proposals would lead to “over-notification: NetChoice opposes a number of state-level data breach notification laws that would require companies collecting personal or private information to notify consumers in a timely manner if their information has been accessed without authorization or breached, arguing they would place consumers at “greater privacy risk” because consumers become desensitized to data breach notifications.
  3. Opposes Open Access initiatives that would give the public access to research: NetChoice takes aim at Open Access proposals, including the White House’s, saying they “could logically extend to assert state copyright over other content coming out of the state’s colleges and universities.” But what Open Access initiatives actually do is provide an remedy for freeing research funded by the public from a broken for-profit academic publishing system where all too often academics do research, pay for the privilege of being published in a journal, get edited by other academics pro-bono, and then the research is licensed back to academic institutions at a very high mark up. NetChoice member Reed Elsevier has actively lobbied against these type of proposals in the past, likely because its subsidiary Elsevier is the largest of the for profit academic publishers — reportedly earned over $1 billion in profits in 2011 with a profit margin around 35 percent and 71 percent of their revenue coming from academic customers like university libraries.