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Monday, 16th February 2009

Privacy Mandates Could Be End of "Free" Internet

Privacy Mandates Could Be End of "Free" Internet
Source: Progress & Freedom Foundation

The Federal Trade Commission should avoid laying the groundwork for more onerous regulation of the online advertising marketplace, state Berin Szoka and Adam Thierer in "Targeted Online Advertising: What's the Harm & Where Are We Heading?" released today by The Progress & Freedom Foundation. The authors, reacting to the FTC's updated Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising, urge the Commission to avoid heavy-handed privacy regulation.

Szoka, Director of PFF's Center for Internet Freedom, and Thierer, Director of PFF's Center for Digital Media Freedom, question the FTC's intervention in the online advertising market based on conjectural harms. Szoka and Thierer suggest the FTC should identify concrete harm before creating more regulatory mandates. Szoka and Thierer fear that the voluntary self-regulatory process is being co-opted by creeping government micromanagement that could become the equivalent of a disastrous industrial policy for the Internet, choking off the resources needed to fuel e-commerce and online free speech going forward.

Szoka and Thierer explain that FTC intervention in privacy policies of online advertisers "could have major consequences for continued creativity and innovation." Tighter regulation of the online advertising market in the form of privacy mandates, the authors warn, " would severely curtail the overall quantity of content and services offered—and greatly limit the ability of new providers to enter the market with innovative offerings." A better alternative to regulation, Szoka and Thierer argue, is user education and empowerment.

+ Full Report (PDF; 78 KB)

See: FTC Staff Revises Online Behavioral Advertising Principles


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