includes, inter alia, databases, and networks. Among other things, it prohibits the sharing of data with countries--for example, the United States--that in the EU's eyes do not have "adequate protection of privacy." Each EU member state would be required to establish a "supervisory authority" charged with enforcing the directive. This directive, while not yet implemented against the United States, is indicative of the kinds of international differences that could emerge among Internet regulations.
The United States has a strong interest in working with the EU to reach agreement on e-commerce issues. It is particularly important that this be done before the EU establishes regulations, standards, or practices inconsistent with those of the United States and puts them forward as the basis of a global agreement. Major differences between these two regions could impede the globalization of the Internet and e-commerce. If, on the other hand, as seems more likely, the United States and EU can agree on major issues, they have a good chance of obtaining a broad international consensus in favor of their common position.
We live in the formative period of the Internet and electronic commerce. The Internet-electronic commerce era is only in its infancy. The potential for expansion of the number and range of users, and of the type of business conducted over this new medium, is enormous. The degree to which the full potential of this technology can be realized will depend on how issues such as taxation, market access, regulation, privacy, and security are resolved in the United States and abroad.
The Internet demands new attitudes toward regulation and government policy. As noted earlier, emphasis should be on self-regulation and market-based solutions that engage users, entrepreneurs, and technical experts in an active dialogue and lead to a policy environment that permits them great latitude to advance this new technology and the way businesses and consumers use it. The private sector faces its own challenge--to take advantage of the opportunities presented to it in a way that is economically profitable as well as socially responsible; one key challenge is to