A coalition of ten self-described "consumer and privacy advocacy organizations" today demanded legislation that would restrict the collection and use of data online for customizing advertising based on Internet users' interests. I'll have more to say on this but here are my initial comments:
These so-called "consumer advocates" are actually anti-consumer elitists. Not only do they presume that consumers are too stupid or lazy to make their own decisions about privacy, but they ignore the benefits to consumers: more relevant advertising plus more and better content.
Advertising has been the "mother's milk" of media in America since colonial times and the future of media depends on the ability of publishers to replicate that revenue model online. Micropayments, donations, subscriptions alone simply can't fund a vibrant marketplace of ideas. Only personalized advertising can sustain publishers through the Digital Revolution.
Regulatory advocates haven't demonstrated any harm to consumers that would justify such sweeping preemptive regulation. By strangling funding for new media, such regulations would amount to an "Industrial Policy" for the Internet. Instead, policymakers should focus on educating consumers and empowering them by promoting development of better privacy management tools.