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Privacilla's Jim Harper replies to pro-regulation privacy study

[Jim Harper has worked on at least one free-market privacy paper that has 
made the rounds in DC. If Robert Gellman would like to reply, I'd be happy 
to turn this into an impromptu debate. Previous message: 
http://www.politechbot.com/p-03307.html --Declan]


From: "Jim Harper - Privacilla.org" <jim.harper@privacilla.org>
To: <declan@well.com>
Cc: <rgellman@cais.com>
Subject: Re: No broad U.S. privacy laws costs "tens of billions," study says
Date: Wed, 27 Mar 2002 09:22:01 -0500


By my cursory review, Gellman's piece is true to form in the privacy debate,
but it represents progress.

The progress is that the paper admits: "Privacy is an elusive, value-laden
concept, and it is hard to reach consensus on a definition."  Alas, that's
where the progress ends: Gellman adopts the consensus (now reaching eight
bullet-point "principles") of European bureaucrats and Washington's
pro-regulation advocates, then argues from there.

A unique new argument: NOT participating in a frequent shopper program COSTS
money.   I think most people regard participating in a frequent shopper
program as saving money (monetizing the value of personal information about
themselves), but Gellman's baseline appears to be that people should get
something for nothing.

The paper rehashes identity fraud (a crime problem) and junk mail,
telemarketing, and spam (inconveniences premised on merchants NOT knowing
information about would-be customers); and, of course, it incoherently
infers support for regulating the private sector to protect against
(genuine) threat from governments.

This is probably timed to coattail on press given to the Progress & Freedom
Foundation study being released today showing that privacy policies are
pretty much ubiquitous on mainstream commercial Web sites --- meaning
consumers are in the driver's seat.  (For the regulation advocates, this
means it's time to move the goalposts.  ;-)

Of course, my market perspective will appear to be the "business"
perspective to people trapped in a 60's-radical kind of "business vs.
consumers" paradigm . . . .

Jim Harper

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