Do Americans Really Want Do Not Track?

Iawful LogoWe often hear politicians say, “Americans need this” and “Americans demand that.”  But before Congress passes new privacy laws to regulate online advertising, let’s be honest about what Americans really want.

 

As we described in iAWFUL last week,Federal legislation to mandate Do Not Track would cut deeply into the online
advertising revenue that pays for free content and services and funds so much Internet innovation.  We need an honest discussion of the impact of Do Not Track.  But what we hear from Capitol Hill is politically charged rhetoric and misrepresented surveys and statistics to justify predetermined agendas.

 

Rep. Jackie Speiers seems more concerned with scoring political points than helping consumers protect their privacy. In February, Rep. Speiers introduced her Do Not Track legislation.  To justify the need for such legislation, Rep. Speiers misquoted a USA Today poll.  Rep. Speiers claims the poll shows that “52% of Google users say they are either somewhat or very concerned about their privacy.”

 

But that’s a dangerous (and perhaps deliberate) misrepresentation.  The poll actually asked users their concern about “invasion of their privacy”.  ( to be honest, its amazing that more users weren’t more concerned about an ‘invasion” of privacy. )

 

But Rep. Speiers had no qualms about misstating the poll results to suit her purposes.  When NetChoice challenged Rep. Speiers on the effect of her legislation and misquote of the poll, her staff reacted by publicly attacking legitimate businesses:

 

Having our do-not-track legislation listed as awful by a coalition of advertisers who profit off of online spying is a badge of honor.

 

Rather than engaging in honest discussion of the potential harms of her bill, Rep. Speiers attacked businesses that provide free services to consumers.

 

Rather than engaging in honest discussion of the potential harms of her bill, Rep. Speiers attacked businesses that provide free services to consumers.

 

Despite what Rep. Speiers would have you believe, businesses want to discuss the need for federal oversight of online privacy.  We encourage federal agencies, like the FTC, to use their enforcement powers against bad actors who misuse personal information. Even two FTC Commissioners think that we need more study of this matter before making new laws and rules, as we noted in our comments.

 

What do Americans really want when it comes to online privacy?   Let’s ask them, with questions that include implications of new restrictions on online advertising. And then lets be honest about the results.

 

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