Privacy & Data Collection

Privacy & Data Collection


Adam Thierer | Nov 19, 2014
This paper highlights some of the opportunities presented by the rise of the so-called Internet of Things in general and wearable technology in particular and encourages policymakers to allow these technologies to develop in a relatively unabated fashion. As with other new and highly disruptive digital technologies, however, the Internet of Things and wearable technology will challenge existing social, economic, and legal norms.
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 | 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.
Adam Thierer | Mar 19, 2012
The problems long associated with regulating public utilities could occur with social networks in the absence of competitive pressure.
Adam Thierer | Aug 12, 2011
This paper discusses the unintended consequences of well-intentioned efforts to expand privacy regulations under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998.

Testimony & Comments

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Expert Commentary

Jan 19, 2016

Contrary to the pro-CISA crowd's claims, "insufficient sharing" of our personal data by corporations and government agencies had nothing to do with the failure at OPM—and a new joint report from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security makes this clear.
Sep 15, 2015

An ongoing legal battle between Microsoft and the Department of Justice (DOJ) over a warrant for customer emails has the potential to seriously threaten open Internet policies around the world. The dispute hinges on abstract legal and technical questions about digital ownership and territoriality, but the broad result will be "fundamental to the future of global technology," as Microsoft described it, because the court's decision could limit or expand the federal government’s power to access personal data stored overseas.
Aug 13, 2015

How would you feel if the government could access a trove of information about who you are, what you do, who your friends are and what they do by collecting it from email and cellphone providers, search engines, social networking sites, and other websites every day? If you'd be outraged, hold on to that feeling. Back in 1986 — in a bygone era before email, the modern Internet, Facebook, the widespread use of cellphones and sharing economy sites — the government passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. And believe it or not, this is still the law that protects the privacy of your electronic life in 2015.
Jun 16, 2015

The "Crypto Wars" are here again, which means federal officials are doing all they can to limit the technological tools that keep our personal data secure. President Obama and leaders from the National Security Agency (NSA), FBI, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have been pressuring the technology community to build "backdoors" that allow government access to encrypted data.
Mar 11, 2015

Adam Thierer provides his insight on the proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights: "The bill aims to convert fair information practice principles, which have traditionally been flexible, voluntary guidelines, into a more formal set of federal regulatory edicts. Many of the principles found in the administration’s draft proposal are quite sensible as best practices for private-sector digital innovators, but the danger here is that they would be transformed into a heavy-handed, bureaucratized regulatory regime for America’s dynamic, data-driven economy."
Feb 27, 2015

The Obama Administration has just released a draft “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2015.” Generally speaking, the bill aims to translate fair information practice principles (FIPPs) — which have traditionally been flexible and voluntary guidelines — into a formal set of industry best practices that would be federally enforced on private sector digital innovators. This includes federally-mandated Privacy Review Boards, approved by the Federal Trade Commission, the agency that will be primarily responsible for enforcing the new regulatory regime.



Adam Thierer | November 26, 2014
In an interview on Marketplace radio, Adam Thierer discusses the EU's "right to be forgotten" policy.

Recent Events

Join Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, for a Regulation University to discuss the best course of action for dealing with network technologies, without derailing innovation.


Media Clippings

Adam Thierer | Jul 03, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in Real Clear Policy.
Adam Thierer | Oct 08, 2013
Adam Thierer cited at Politico.
Adam Thierer | Jun 24, 2013
"High technology companies are among the fastest growing lobbying shops in Washington," said Adam Thierer.
Adam Thierer | Jun 13, 2013
"Generally speaking, most libertarians are pretty skeptical of the highly deferential ‘just-trust-your-government’ attitude on display in that essay," Thierer told BuzzFeed.
Adam Thierer | Jun 11, 2013
Adam Thierer argues they’re very different because the government has the power to take our life, liberty, and property, while private parties are just trying to offer us better products and services.
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