The Evolving Technologies Of Internet Privacy

Policy Backgrounders | Privacy

No. 156
Friday, April 27, 2001
by Gregory F. Rehmke


Two dynamic Internet software industries are emerging. One is the data-mining industry, producing software tools that firms use to analyze consumer behavior and preferences on the Internet. The other is the privacy software industry, whose products are designed to stop some or all of this individual information from being collected and analyzed.

"Most new privacy legislation proposes to interfere with the development of new technologies."

Entrepreneurial firms are rushing to offer a variety of products to serve Internet advertising and data-gathering firms on the one hand and individuals and groups with privacy concerns on the other. The competitive marketplace is searching for the amount of privacy that people want and are willing to pay for. Microsoft's announcement of the new privacy features planned for the next release of its Web browser, Internet Explorer, highlights the growing response of the private sector to concerns about privacy on the Internet. These concerns have to do not only with privacy from businesses and other individuals but also with privacy from government.

More than a score of privacy-related bills have been introduced in the 107th Congress, several of them specific to Internet privacy. Some propose restrictions on the federal government's own use and potential abuse of private information about American citizens. Most of the new legislation, however, proposes to legislatively interfere (or further interfere) with the development of information and privacy technologies in the private sector.

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