Privacy and Security

Questions about privacy are central to the digital economy. We study how much people value privacy, the privacy paradox, and developments in state and federal privacy legislation. Our work has contributed to policy discussions of data portability, data regulation, and advertising models.

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Press Releases

Better Data Needed on Data Privacy and Security Issues

Without substantially better data and analysis, policymakers cannot make informed decisions concerning data privacy and security legislation, stated Thomas Lenard in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. During the hearing, “Privacy and Data Security: Protecting Consumers in the Modern World,” Lenard also stressed that data privacy and security are different issues and should be dealt with separately by policymakers.

Press Releases

Aspen Panel: Information and Privacy: In Search of a Data-Driven Policy

Data privacy raises issues that are central to the health of the Internet ecosystem and will be a major focus of this year’s TPI Aspen Forum. While proposals have emanated from the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Commerce, and Congress, few data exist on the nature and extent of the problem and how proposed privacy regulations would impact consumers. Distinguished speakers from academia, government and industry will debate the future of privacy policy during the discussion panel, “Information and Privacy: In Search of a Data-Driven Policy.” The TPI Aspen Forum is scheduled for August 21 – 23 in Aspen, Colorado.

Research Papers

The Illusory Privacy Problem in Sorrell v. IMS Health

Those in the habit of looking for privacy invasions can find them everywhere. This phenomenon is on display in the recent news coverage of Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc., a case currently under review by the Supreme Court. The litigation challenges a Vermont law that would limit the dissemination and use of prescription drug data for the purposes of marketing to physicians by pharmaceutical companies. The prescription data at issue identify the prescribing physician and pharmacy, but provide only limited detail about the patients (for example, the patient�s age in years and gender). Nevertheless, privacy organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) have filed amici curiae briefs sounding distress alarms for patient privacy. A recent New York Times article describes the case as one that puts the privacy interests of “little people” against the formidable powers of “Big Data.” The fear is that, in the information age, data subjects could be re-identified using the vast amount of auxiliary information available about each of us in commercial databases and on the internet.

Press Releases

Benefits from Information Collection Outweigh Costs

Economic analysis shows that the benefits of online information collection, such as ad-supported applications and content, greatly outweigh any costs or risks, state Paul Rubin and Michael Hammock in “Applications Want to be Free: Privacy Against Information,” released today by the Technology Policy Institute. Current arguments for increased privacy regulation are not based on economic theory or evidence and instead rely on anecdotes or a perceived inherent “right” to privacy online. As a result, policymakers should be leery of making radical changes to the current privacy regime without carefully considering the economic consequences.

Press Releases

Event Video: Online Privacy after the DOC and FTC Reports

Online video is now available on the C-SPAN website of last Friday’s event “Online Privacy after the DOC and FTC Reports,” hosted by the Technology Policy Institute. The event featured opening remarks by Congressman Cliff Stearns, Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In his remarks, Stearns outlined the goals and key provisions of the draft privacy legislation he is planning to introduce soon.

Press Releases

Hon. Cliff Stearns to Give Remarks at TPI Online Privacy Event

Congressman Cliff Stearns will offer remarks at this Friday’s event “Online Privacy after the DOC and FTC Reports,” hosted by the Technology Policy Institute. Rep. Stearns, Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is expected to soon introduce privacy legislation, building upon a previous draft developed in the last Congress.

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