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Congress Raises False Alarm on Consumer Privacy

News Releases

Washington, D.C., April 23, 2009—This morning, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee held a hearing on recent developments in online privacy for consumers. This hearing explored several data gathering techniques, such as deep-packet inspection, that have recently been adopted for targeted marketing purposes.

Deep-packet inspection, like many nascent technologies, has stoked privacy fears, but it can coexist with robust privacy protections. Nevertheless, deep-packet inspection has been vilified by many politicians, including Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), who has called for federal restrictions on collecting information about Web users’ browsing habits.

“Imposing rigid mandates on user-level monitoring would stifle innovative new ways of connecting buyers and sellers,” said Ryan Radia, Competitive Enterprise Institute Information Policy Analyst. “Internet advertising revenue is essential to online content creators, including many local newspapers. Especially during a recession, Web users stand to benefit from technologies that enhance free content by increasing the value of users’ eyeballs.”

“The Internet can best serve customers as a system with few top-down rules, guided by competitive discipline rather than government regulation,” said Wayne Crews, Vice President for Policy. “The benefits that personalization brings, like easier and faster shopping experiences, are in their infancy. Sensible data collection improves search, communication, innovation, and competitiveness – all the things we associate with a well-functioning economy and greater consumer convenience and power. These developments should not be hampered by haphazard regulation and misdirected government intervention.” 

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