If You Give A Browser A Cookie …

Peter Swire worries about the escalating battle over online privacy:

[P]rivacy groups, government regulators, and others have argued that users should have a choice. If people don’t want to be tracked across multiple sites, then they should be able to indicate that choice through their browser settings: “Do Not Track.” Sounds simple enough.

But it’s not. The devil lies in the details of implementation, for there are many stakeholders besides individual users in the online data collection and advertising ecosystem. Without effective targeting and tracking, advertisers argue, ad revenue could plummet and lead to the shuttering of many popular websites that rely on third party ads as their primary source of revenue. Those who buy and sell behavioral advertising and retargeting point out that advertising revenue supports the diverse array of free content available on the internet. From this perspective, online data collection enables innovative business models, and supports the long tail of smaller websites that get revenue from targeted advertisements.