Adam Thierer

Adam Thierer

  • Senior Research Fellow

Adam Thierer is a senior research fellow with the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He specializes in technology, media, Internet, and free-speech policies, with a particular focus on online safety and digital privacy. His writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and Forbes, and he has appeared on national television and radio. Thierer is a frequent guest lecturer and has testified numerous times on Capitol Hill.

Thierer has authored or edited eight books on topics ranging from media regulation and child safety issues to the role of federalism in high-technology markets. His latest book is Permissionless Innovation: The Continuing Case for Comprehensive Technological Freedom.

He contributes to the Technology Liberation Front, a leading tech policy blog. Thierer has served on several distinguished online safety task forces, including Harvard University’s Internet Safety Technical Task Force and the federal government’s Online Safety Technology Working Group.

Previously, Thierer was president of the Progress & Freedom Foundation, director of telecommunications studies at the Cato Institute, and a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Thierer received his MA in international business management and trade theory at the University of Maryland and his BA in journalism and political philosophy from Indiana University.

Published Research

Adam Thierer | May 17, 2014
Privacy law today faces two interrelated problems. The first is an information control problem. Like so many other fields of modern cyberlaw — intellectual property, online safety, cybersecurity, etc. — privacy law is being challenged by intractable Information Age realities. Specifically, it is easier than ever before for information to circulate freely and harder than ever to bottle it up once it is released. …
Adam Thierer, Brent Skorup | Apr 29, 2014
The television distribution marketplace has been substantially regulated since the advent of broadcast television in the 1940s and 1950s. The Federal Communications Commission and Congress have relied on several justifications for the regulatory protection of the system of local broadcasters envisioned post–World War II, namely, (1) universal service, (2) localism, (3) free television, and (4) competition.
Adam Thierer | Aug 14, 2013
Policy debates surrounding online child safety and digital privacy share much in common. Both are complicated by thorny definitional disputes and highly subjective valuations of “harm.” Both issues can be subject to intense cultural overreactions, or “technopanics.”1 It is common to hear demands for technical quick fixes or silver bullet solutions that are simple yet sophisticated.2 In both cases, the purpose of regulation is some form of information control.3 Preventing exposure to objectionable content or communications is the primary goal of online safety regulation, whereas preventing the release of personal information is typically the goal of online privacy regulation.4 The common response is regulation of business practices or default service settings.
Adam Thierer, Brent Skorup | Apr 01, 2013
Are information sectors sufficiently different from other sectors of the economy such that more stringent antitrust standards should be applied to them preemptively? Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu responds in the affirmative in his book The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires. Wu proposes preventing vertical mergers in the information economy and the mandatory divestiture of vertically integrated companies. To implement this, Wu proposes a Separations Principle for the information economy, which would segregate information providers into three buckets, which we have labeled information creators, information distributors, and hardware makers.

Working Papers

Adam Thierer, Ryan Hagemann | Sep 17, 2014
This paper addresses some of the early policy concerns about “connected cars” and driverless vehicles and promotes “bottom-up” solutions to ensure that innovation continues to flourish in this space.
Adam Thierer, Brent Skorup | Jul 01, 2013
The danger of creeping cronyism in the high-tech field is that it will dull entrepreneurialism and competition in this highly innovative sector. The opportunity costs of pursuing favors are significant.
Adam Thierer, Brent Skorup | Oct 16, 2012
We argue that the antitrust harms Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu fears are not present, and we highlight scholarship on the accepted benefits of vertically integrated firms. We show that Wu's remedies are policy preferences wrapped in the language of competition law. In fact, the information economy is largely competitive and does not warrant interventionist regulatory enforcement. Since much of American economic vitality flows from the information economy and technology, policymakers should reject a radical antitrust remedy like Wu’s preemptive Separations Principle.
Adam Thierer | Mar 19, 2012
The problems long associated with regulating public utilities could occur with social networks in the absence of competitive pressure.

Charts

Policy Briefs

Testimony & Comments

Adam Thierer, Ryan Hagemann | Sep 23, 2014
As part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), Congress ordered the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UASs)—sometimes referred to as drones—into the National Airspace System by September 2015. As part of that effort, the FAA is currently accepting comments on its “Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft” (Section 336 of the FMRA) and the FAA’s enforcement authority over model aircraft as affirmed by the statute.
Adam Thierer | May 31, 2013
While it is unclear what may come from this proceeding, the danger exists that it represents the beginning of a regulatory regime for a new set of information technologies that are still in their infancy. Fearing hypothetical worst-case scenarios about the misuse of some IoT technologies, some policy activists and policymakers could seek to curb or control their development.
Adam Thierer | Apr 24, 2013
Even if Do Not Track takes root and some consumers turn it on, many will be incentivized by ad networks or publishers to opt right back in to “tracking” to retain access to sites and services they desire. In doing so, they may end up sharing even more information than they do today. Moreover, this may drive still greater consolidation since larger players will be in a position to grant Internet-wide opt-in exceptions, while smaller providers cannot…
Jerry Brito, Eli Dourado, Adam Thierer | Apr 23, 2013
In analyzing the proposed policies being developed to carry out Congress’s mandate, it is important to remember that the purpose of the mandate is to open America’s skies to commercial UAS use in order to reap the social benefits that such use will bring.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Speeches & Presentations

Adam Thierer | Sep 11, 2014
"Internet of Things & Wearable Technology: Unlocking the Next Wave of Data-Driven Innovation." A presentation by Adam Thierer made on September 11, 2014 at AEI-FCC Conference on "Regulating the Evolving Broadband Ecosystem."
Adam Thierer | Jun 06, 2014
Successful innovation, which is essential to better health, safety and security, requires freedom to experiment and develop. But there is an array of government rules and processes that increasingly prohibit “permissionless” innovation.
Adam Thierer | Nov 16, 2012
This presentation was delivered before the Southern Economic Association on November 16, 2012. Examines concerns about vertical integration in the tech economy and specifically addresses regulatory proposals set forth by Tim Wu (arguing for a "separations principle" for the tech economy) & Jonathan ZIttrain (arguing for "API neutrality" for social media and digital platforms.
Adam Thierer | Nov 09, 2012
Cronyism generally refers to an unnatural and unhealthy closeness between government and special interests. �…

Media Clippings

Expert Commentary

Sep 16, 2014

Even when mergers don't make sense, the market does a better job than regulators of sorting the good from the bad. Remember AOL-Time Warner's 2000 marriage? Their shareholders certainly don't want you to.
Jun 17, 2014

See which books Mercatus scholars and staff are reading this summer that look forward on important issues in economics and public policy.
Feb 20, 2014

The initial reaction to media mega-mergers is typically a mix of fear and dread with calls for regulatory intervention - and that's certainly true of Comcast's recently announced acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The proposed $45.2 billion combination of these two cable and Internet giants already set off waves of panic.
Feb 03, 2014

I've written here and elsewhere about the growing privacy and security concerns surrounding the rise of the "Internet of Things" (IoT) era. Many privacy advocates are already decrying the potential for massive security threats and privacy violations in a world of always-on, always-sensing devices. I've admitted that there are some valid reasons for concern, even though I've also argued that most of us will likely quickly adapt to this new era and we will also find practical solutions to many of the problems that arise.

Contact

Adam Thierer

Books

Adam Thierer | Mar 25, 2014
What policy vision will govern the future of technological innovation? Will innovators be forced to constantly seek the blessing of public officials before they develop and deploy new devices and services, or will they be generally left free to experiment with new technologies and business models?

Podcasts

Adam Thierer | June 02, 2014
Adam Thierer Discusses Permissionless Innovation on Real Clear Radio Hour…
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