Congress Raises False Alarm on Consumer Privacy

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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