Business data confidentiality concerns raised at Senate hearing
Two shipping industry representatives told Senate lawmakers Wednesday about their concerns with sharing sensitive commercial business information between federal agencies and other governments for antiterrorism purposes.
While more efficient information use has been a theme of the U.S. government’s global war against terrorism, the issue struck a nerve recently with U.S. shippers and freight forwarders when the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection pressed the issue by threatening to hold up long-awaited rules for mandatory electronic filing of export information.
The American Association of Exporters and Importers (AAEI) doesn’t believe the increased use of proprietary shipping information raises the “situational awareness” for targeting shipments.
“In short, the collection and storage of increasingly detailed trade data may become alarming to the U.S. trade community when such data is exchanged without adequate protections with other federal agencies as well as foreign governments,” said Marian Duntley, AAEI chairman and corporate customs manager for Toyota Motor Sales USA, in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee.
Duntley pointed out to the committee that some foreign governments may be tempted to use U.S. commercial information to give state-run enterprises a competitive leg up on American companies.
“To be candid, U.S. businesses must have better assurances that information supplied to foreign governments for security purposes would not be used against them in a competitive business context,” she added.
The National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA) told the Senate committee that the handoff of export information to foreign governments does not represent the best interests of U.S. international trade.
“At a time when we are struggling with trade deficits, the United States should not be undermining the competitive standing of the very exporters that must bring these statistics more into balance,” said Peter Powell, NCBFAA chairman.