Aug 272010
 August 27, 2010  Posted by  Laws, Online

Resolved: “This house believes that governments must do far more to protect online privacy.”

Proposer: Marc Rotenberg, EPIC

….. we need the government agencies charged with consumer protection, privacy protection and antitrust review to play a more active role on behalf of internet users. Companies that collect personal information for one purpose and then turn around and use it for a completely unrelated purpose should not get a free pass from regulators. And the consolidation of large internet firms, particularly in the online advertising world, should set off alarm bells for competition authorities. Not only does the massive profiling of users by incumbents place users in a digital fishbowl, it also makes it more difficult for new entrants to compete. Competition, innovation and privacy protection could easily become allies as the internet economy evolves.

We also need independent privacy agencies to speak up when the private sector or the government cross into Big Brother territory. Requiring RFID tags in products and identity documents, gathering up DNA samples for law enforcement use and consumer products, and tracking the location of internet users without their knowledge or consent all pose new challenges that cannot be ignored.

The Opposition: Jim Harper, CATO

…. Government help will not do for protecting privacy in its stronger “control” sense either. Privacy is a value that varies from person to person and from context to context. Perfectly nice, normal people can be highly protective of information about themselves or indifferent to what happens with data about their web surfing. Any government regulation would cut through this diversity.

Government “experts” should not dictate social rules. Rather, interactions among members of the internet community should determine the internet’s social and business norms.

Read more of the debate on The Economist.

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