The Business Roundtable, representing the CEOs of major U.S. companies, is calling for a national consumer privacy law.
In its latest quarterly economic survey, 80% of roundtable members said it was “somewhat” or “very” important for Congress to enact such a law because of the fragmented regulation that currently exists both internationally and across U.S. states. (More than a dozen privacy bills are advancing among U.S. states, according to the roundtable.)
There is currently a “crazy patchwork quilt of different privacy regulations, which is a big impediment to business and innovation,” said Josh Bolten, president and CEO of the Roundtable in a call with reporters. He noted that the roundtable in December released a framework that could serve as a baseline for individual privacy rights, with a common set of rules for companies.
Jamie Dimon, roundtable chairman and CEO and chair of JPMorgan Chase, said it would be helpful if U.S.-based privacy rules were part of an international effort, noting that the European Union has already established the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on data protection and privacy for individuals.
“Consumers should know the data companies have on them and should be able to correct errors,” said Dimon. The GDPR accords that right to consumers and requires companies to limit their data collection to only what they need.
The Business Roundtable’s quarterly economic survey also found that CEOs are slightly less bullish on the economic outlook now than they were in the fourth quarter with expectations for hiring, capital investment and sales declining though still well above historic averages.
Its Economic Outlook index fell to 95.2, down 9.2 points from the previous quarter, while the hiring subindex index fell 11.3 to 80.4 and capex subindex declined 6.9 points to 91. The sales expectations subindex decreased 9.6 points to 114. (Any measure above 50 indicates growth rather than decline.)
Estimates for 2019 GDP growth were trimmed to 2.5% from 2.7% in the previous quarter but “remains solid” and reflects “smart policies on tax reform and regulation,” said Bolten in a statement.
Dimon said the slightly weaker outlook is due in part to a “softer global growth.”
He urged Congress and the White House to focus on policies that support the economy including” expanding free and fair trade, investing in infrastructure and workforce training, enacting a national innovation agenda and pursuing comprehensive immigration reform.”
Dimon said current trade disputes are a negative for the U.S. economy and a hard Brexit is primarily a negative for the U.K. economy, rather than the European or U.S. economy though “not a good idea.”
On the rising U.S. deficit, Dimon said it wasn’t a critical issue today – a net debt of 80% GDP is far less than 250% in Japan – but a problem that needs to be addressed eventually.
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