Digital technology and digital business tools are increasingly powering today’s small businesses. In Virginia, small businesses employ more than 1.5 million people. Many, like the business I started two months ago, use digital technologies to make a “traditional” small business more efficient, easier to manage and more successful.
Now we are hoping government regulation of digital platforms does not harm our momentum and success.
I started a digital notary business two months ago as my post-military retirement plan. Already, I have serviced more than 200 customers, including dozens who were outside of the United States. Most notaries disappear when the local bank branch closes down for the day, but as a pioneering digital notary, I can be available nights and weekends to serve customers whose busy lives do not fit a 9-to-5 schedule.
The notary platform I use is secure, which is very important because customers must share sensitive data so I can authenticate identity and notarize electronic signatures.
I am concerned by some privacy and data protection legislative proposals that could harm small digital businesses.
For example, some propose every digital business have a chief privacy officer. Other proposals call for government to regulate artificial intelligence, or to identify specifically the business partners that are storing and securing customer data.
I sure hope my one-person business will not need a chief privacy officer, as I am already busy enough switching hats as the chief executive, marketing department, and sales and operations officer.
I also do not want to email every customer if our software platform uses new partners for data storage and security. People want to know my company and our software platform are secure, but they do not want spam email with useless information.
Soon I hope to start advertising my business online. In doing so I will utilize artificial intelligence and data science that advertising partners provide their small business customers. I hope legislators allow me to use that data so advertising remains inexpensive and so I can hyper-target potential customers.
It is hard to predict what laws Congress will consider in 2019, but it is most important that Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Congressman Bobby Scott understand how many small businesses stand on top of our foundational internet companies.
It is easy to blame Google, Amazon and Facebook for making mistakes or being hacked, and to call them monopolists. It is harder to understand that these and many more digital platforms are using data science and artificial intelligence to help small businesses succeed. If government insists on massive changes to their operations, small businesses like mine could be hurt badly or even put out of business.
There are so many veterans, stay-at-home moms and prisoners of corporate America who long to start a business using their ingenuity and hard work. Thanks to digital technology I have taken the plunge and I am excited about my successful beginning. I hope that in 2019 Congress shows its support for digitally-powered small businesses, by protecting our opportunity to succeed and the platforms that support us.
Jeannie Franks is a notary and president of NotaryNow LLC in Hampton. She’s a member of the Connected Commerce Council. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.