Online businesses have an incentive to meet consumer privacy expectations, said Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican. Lawmakers should be careful not to hurt small online businesses, he said.
Thune questioned whether there were "specific and identifiable harms" resulting from online tracking.
Harms are hard to define, with some consumers saying targeted advertising is "creepy," said Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. "It's hard for me to find a real harm with creepiness," he said. "I think a lot of my neighbors are creepy, but I don't think they're harmful."
The issue is more about consumer preference, said Justin Brookman, director of the Project on Consumer Privacy at the Center for Democracy and Technology. "If a couple walks into a restaurant and says, 'hey, can I have a private booth?' the maître d' doesn't turn around and shout, 'what's the harm?'" he said. "They try to accommodate them."
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