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 | 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.
Adam Thierer | Mar 18, 2013
This Article—which focuses not on privacy rights against the government, but against private actors—cuts against the grain of much modern privacy scholarship by suggesting that expanded regulation is not the most constructive way to go about ensuring greater online privacy.
Adam Thierer | Jan 25, 2013
This paper will consider the structure of fear appeal arguments in technology policy debates and then outline how those arguments can be deconstructed and refuted in both cultural and economic contexts. Several examples of fear appeal arguments will be offered with a particular focus on online child safety, digital privacy, and cybersecurity. The various factors contributing to “fear cycles” in these policy areas will be documented.

Working Papers


Policy Briefs

Testimony & Comments

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.
Adam Thierer | Dec 22, 2011
In this public interest comment to the Federal Trade Commission, Adam Thierer addresses how the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) affects online content and digital innovation.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Speeches & Presentations

Expert Commentary

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.
Jan 23, 2014

In an editorial in last Sunday’s New York Times (“Madison’s Privacy Blind Spot”), Jeffrey Rosen, a leading privacy scholar and the president and chief executive of the National Constitution Center, proposed “a constitutional amendment to prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures of our persons and electronic effects, whether by the government or by private corporations like Google and AT&T.”…
Nov 16, 2013

The Internet is turning us all into ignorant, distracted, lazy, asocial narcissists. Or at least that’s what a seemingly endlessly stream of recent books about the information revolution and digital technology would have us believe.


Adam Thierer


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?


Adam Thierer | April 09, 2014
Adam Thierer Discusses Permissionless Innovation and Tech Policy on the CATO Daily Podcast…
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