WSJ readers weigh-in: After seeing both sides, it’s a Landslide

Every once in a while, a rigorous debate will actually sway public opinion.

Yesterday,  the Wall Street Journal published an impressive special section on tech issues that featured arguments from both sides. And it included a debate over new sales tax requirements for online retailers.

As I described yesterday, The Journal also published survey results based on a poll conducted weeks earlier, so there were already over 2,000 votes (60%) for the position that retailers should have to collect sales tax for all states — even where they have no physical presence.

I was initially troubled that the survey results were compiled before readers had a chance to understand both sides of the argument. But then, within one day of seeing both sides presented, the poll results were reversed. Read more

Emotional Climate Change

Flashy newspaper headlines drive clicks but they can also mislead readers.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project just released a study of teens’ use of social networks.  It was a joint project with the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), who featured the study at their annual conference in Washington.  Like all of Pew’s work, this study provides a deeply nuanced view of the subject, breaking down behaviors and identifying emerging trends.

At the FOSI conference yesterday, I thanked Pew for helping to describe what they call the “emotional climate” for teens using social networking.   But the media wants to write headlines about “emotional climate change” when it comes to meanness among teens – and then blame it on the Internet. Read more

Just in Time for Halloween: Privacy Advocates Say Cookies are Scary

Halloween is fast approaching and while that makes it a good time to reflect on the treats that internet cookies enable, privacy advocates seem fixated on the bad actors allegedly using cookies to play tricks.  The most recent example of this occurred yesterday morning at a press event on the collection of information through “cookies” and companies who read their cookies when you visit other webpages.

After two hours of discussion, there were examples of harms from data breaches, theft of data, and misuse of public information, all examples of tricks from bad actors.   But nowhere in the discussion were there examples of harm from cookies.

The more I learn about cookies, the more I see them as a treat — not a a trick.  Cookies are benign, have been around for years, and are beneficial to my Internet experience. Read more

Facebook’s Apps Platform: a $15 billion Dance Club for Users and Developers

Dance clubs provide a fantastic venue for both musicians and club-goers.  Musicians can show off new works and find new fans, while dancers groove to the music and make new friends.


It’s more than just fun.   A new study from the University of Maryland’s Center for Digital Innovation, Technology & Strategy (DIGITS) shows that today’s digital “dance clubs” can also generate jobs and some serious economic activity.  DIGITS analyzed Facebook’s apps platform and found that “the Facebook App Economy created 235,644 jobs, adding a value of $15.71 billion dollars to the U.S. economy.”


So how is Facebook’s apps platform like a dance club? Read more

Standing Shoulder-to-Shoulder with Self-Regulation

Last Friday NetChoice stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the existing industry self-regulation regarding location based services (LBS).  In doing so, we responded to the FCC’s call for comments on LBS.  In our comments we explained how:


  • Location based services benefit consumers and businesses;
  • Self-regulation is working;
  • Consumers already must affirmatively consent to most geo-location collection;
  • The FCC can assist the industry’s self-regulation program;
  • And consumer education efforts on privacy are already underway.

Read more

FTC: Don’t Turn Out the Lights on Internet Advertising

Ever been in a meeting room where the lights are way too bright?  But when you shut the lights off, it’s too dark and really all you need is a simple dimmer switch to adjust the lights just the way you want.


FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has entered the room where millions of Americans are happily using free online services that are paid for by targeted advertising.  And the Chairman thinks the FTC needs to shut the lights off. Read more

Privacy and Sustainability

Friday January 28 is Data Privacy Day. Unlike so many special-purpose days on the public calendar, this one’s not a ploy to sell greeting cards or flowers. Data Privacy Day is designed to prod Internet users to take a critical look at how they share and communicate their private information online.


Data Privacy Day occurs at an opportune time this year, since multiple arms of our federal government are looking to regulate privacy practices in our economy’s strongest growth engine – online services. Congress, the Commerce Department, and the Federal Trade Commission each have proposed new rights and rules for data privacy.


It’s good to see attention focused on privacy, but when the government plans new restrictions on private activities, rule number one must be, do no harm. Read more

Why Online Dating Criminal Background Checks Aren’t As Advertised

Recent media attention has resurrected the notion that criminal background checks for online dating sites are helpful and should even be required by law. Sunday’s front page article in the New York Times described how companies selling background checks can “unmask Mr. or Ms. Wrong.” And today’s Good Morning America featured a segment called “Online Dating: Are you Flirting with a Felon?”


Braden Screenshot GMAI was interviewed by both the Times and Good Morning America to say that these background checks are superficial, create a false sense of security, and that government should never mandate these for online dating sites. First of all, I should say that I’m personally involved in this issue. I met my wife on We didn’t screen each other, at least not for a criminal past. I remember doing a simple search on her screen name however, and for a while thinking she could be someone who she wasn’t, though. Read more

At FCC’s “Generation Mobile” Event, the Kids Speak Plainly & Pointedly

FCC Gen MobileAt today’s FCC “Generation Mobile” forum — chock-full of online safety experts, company reps, Jane Lynch of the TV show Glee, and even Chairman Genachowski himself — it was the kids that made the show about mobile technology worthwhile. On a panel about generation mobile, here are a few of the statements we heard from high school kids:


  1. “Don’t just take the phone away.”
  2. “When parents snoop too much, it’s a privacy invasion.”
  3. “We’ll listen more if you present us with concrete evidence for behavioral restrictions.” Read more