by Adam Thierer, Mercatus Center at George Mason University
Would you like to pay $20 a month for Facebook, or a dime every time you did a search on Google or Bing? That’s potentially what is at stake if the Obama administration and advocates of stepped-up regulation of online advertising get their way.
The Internet feels like the ultimate free lunch. Once we pay for basic access, a cornucopia of seemingly free services and content is at our fingertips. But those services don’t just fall to Earth like manna from heaven. What powers the “free” Internet are data collection and advertising. In essence, the relationship between consumers and online content and service providers isn’t governed by any formal contract, but rather by an unwritten quid pro quo: tolerate some ads or we’ll be forced to charge you for service. Most consumers gladly take that deal—even if many of them gripe about annoying or intrusive ads, at times.
Read more of Adam’s op-ed on The Technology Liberation Front.