Don’t Let Privacy Limit Web Commerce, Alibaba Chair Tells UN

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By Bryce Baschuck

Global policymakers should embrace a light-touch towards electronic commerce that doesn’t get bogged down in privacy and cybersecurity concerns, the founder of China’s largest online retailer told the UN April 25.

Alibaba Holdings Group Ltd. Founder Jack Ma’s comments seem to mesh with President Donald Trump’s stance toward excessive regulation that could hamper burgeoning industries. In recent weeks, Congress authorized and Trump repealed a Federal Communications Commission rule that would have required internet service provider’s to gain user consent to collect and use consumer web use data.

Ma's comments carry extra weight because Alibaba is the world's third largest e-commerce company with a $286.6 billion market capitalization, Bloomberg data show.

Europeans, however, tend to take a different approach, Ma said during a panel discussion at the United Nations in Geneva. The European Union’s new privacy regime coming in May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation includes stricter consumer consent requirements. European regulators shouldn’t hamper innovation because “when you worry about too much, nothing can happen,” he said.

Instead, Ma urged global regulatory authorities to focus on policies that encourage entrepreneurs, encourage infrastructure investment and reduce tax burdens for e-commerce companies.

“We should not discipline the baby before it is born,” Ma said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bryce Baschuck in Geneva at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at daplin@bna.com

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