Politics 80X: Politics of the Internet

PRIVACY

Marketing vs. Privacy

Firms which sell want access to consumer data to aid their marketing activities. But if they are free to compromise our privacy rights in order to obtain marketing information, there is a sharp public policy issue. Consider how the US Government approached this in its dealings with Europe and Japan.

The United States called for a tax-free, unregulated approach to the Internet. But that also meant that firms would be free from restraints.

When US official Ira Magaziner characterized a US-Japan agreement, he said [New York Times, 15 May 1998] it was significant that "the Japanese are taking a market-oriented approach, that they are agreeing to the free flow of information." This agreement also bore on differences between the United States and Europe: EU regulations, to be effective in October 1998, barred EU members from sending collected personal information about citizens of EU countries to any country that did not maintain the same levels of privacy protection. [The Times said that "the [US] Administration has been pushing industries to enforce their own privacy codes."] Here is a very blunt difference between the US position, putting marketing first and privacy second, and the EU position, in which marketing had to give way to privacy rights.