Privacy Should Not Come at the Expense of User Choice

June 19, 2013

WASHINGTON (June 19, 2013) - In response to the announcement by Mozilla and the Center for Internet and Society (CIS) at Stanford Law School that they are launching a partnership called the "Cookie Clearinghouse" to block third-party cookies, Daniel Castro, Senior Analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), releases the following statement:

"'The primary principle of Internet oversight should be user choice.' This is a common refrain quoted by privacy zealots who argue that consumers should be the only ones who get to say whether their information is collected and used. Yet this Mozilla/Stanford cookie blocking proposal being hailed by the privacy community just proves these statements have been empty rhetoric. When the rubber meets the road, privacy advocates oppose user choice.

The Mozilla/Stanford program, overseen by a six-person panel, will determine a list of 'undesirable' cookies and then specifically block those from users. In other words what these organizations and the privacy groups that back them are really saying is 'Let us choose for you because we know best.' This goes completely against their user choice principle while also not taking into account the importance of data collection and online advertising to the free Internet.

The proponents of this model have claimed they are empowering users. Saying that the Cookie Clearinghouse 'allow list' and 'block list' empowers users is like saying the TSA's 'no fly list' empowers airline passengers. This is basically Sarah Palin's 'Death Panels' but for the Internet. There is nothing wrong with Mozilla marketing its browser to privacy-conscious individuals. But privacy advocates cannot claim they are for user choice when they are trying to set the rules of the road for everyone.

ITIF has long argued that privacy regulations should follow three main tenants:  1) let users have choice, 2) do not allow users who opt out to share in the benefits, and 3) government should not discourage online advertising business models that do not harm users.

By following this outline policymakers can enhance Internet innovation and business development, while better protecting the privacy principles zealots claim to cherish." 

 

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The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank whose mission is to formulate and promote public policies to advance technological innovation and productivity internationally, in Washington, and in the states. Recognizing the vital role of technology in ensuring prosperity, ITIF focuses on innovation, productivity, and digital economy issues. Learn more at www.itif.org.

Contact: Samantha Greene
Email: sgreene@itif.org
Phone: (202) 626 5744