Truth & internet privacy
May 19. 2017 12:18AM
To the Editor: Sen. Feltes’ and Rep. Kurk’s column on internet privacy repeats several misleading talking points that have been floating around the blogosphere. Consumers have the same rights today that they’ve always had. Congress simply prevented a rule from taking effect that would have created an unlevel playing field in digital advertising.
The rule would have put greater burdens on broadband providers such as Verizon than on internet-based companies such as Google and Facebook, despite the fact that the latter two companies collect two of every three dollars spent in online advertising. The authors suggest that broadband providers know more about us than Google, but that’s unlikely to be true. My home broadband provider can gather information about my activity at home. But Google can capture my activity while logged into my Google account, at work, at home, or while on my mobile device (powered by a Google operating system,) particularly if I use my Google login to sign in to other websites. The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers, but if it does, it certainly shouldn’t burden newcomers to benefit incumbents.
Moreover, one cannot discuss internet privacy in a vacuum. The monetization of consumer information funds many everyday internet activities. If we make it harder for companies to collect data, they could require consumers to pay for services they get now for free — which would widen the digital divide. We must consider the consequences that additional privacy protection could have on the broader internet experience.
PROF. DANIEL A. LYONS
Boston College Law School