One of the most common refrains heard from advocates of government privacy
regulation is that such regulations will promote consumer confidence in the
Internet and e-commerce. This is certainly an attractive refrain; most
everyone is in favor of consumer confidence. How we get these things,
however, is another question.
There are several multi-billion dollar companies, and thousands of
up-and-comers that have powerful economic interests in consumer confidence.
As more consumers feel safe with the Internet, these companies will have
more and more visitors and customers. They will have millions and millions
more dollars in profits, and billions and billions more dollars in market
With all this corporate wealth depending on consumer confidence, why
would it be the job of government to spend taxpayer dollars on fostering
consumer confidence? Of all the wonders of the Internet, this may be the
There is a clear unity of interest between online businesses and their
potential customers. Businesses want to provide a safe and pleasant online
experience; consumers want to have one. It is odd that government should
be asked to step in and make consumer confidence happen. With the Internet
economy growing at a high rate, it is a wonder that there needs to be
government action to increase the rate of growth even further.
Having governments set privacy policies in order to foster consumer
confidence hearkens to the days of centralized, national industrial
policies. Internet businesses are well-equipped to foster consumer
confidence and, more importantly, it is their responsibility. Hard-working
American taxpayers should not be asked to pay taxes to support regulations
and government programs that grow the profits of some of the biggest
corporations. The consumer confidence justification for online privacy
regulation is little more than a search for New-Economy corporate welfare.
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