The privacy advocates are surely going to intensify efforts to get new laws and regulations to do what the Internet industry would not do voluntarily. It’s going to be a pivotal fight, with great arguments on both sides.
On the one hand, Internet tracking and the advertising that it enables fuels most of our most valuable Silicon Valley enterprises, as well as the websites that are the sources of so much of our information, entertainment, and social networking. On the other hand, at a time when we seem worried about tracking by the National Security Agency — which at least in theory is subject to outside oversight and laws about how it can use our information — dozens of private companies, some of which we have never heard of and all of which are accountable to no one in the way the NSA is, are tracking us, too.
To inform that debate, we need to see stories flushing out the arguments, sizing up the key players on both sides, and exploring how tricky the politics of all this can be. (Can Google or Facebook deplore NSA tracking while fighting for the freedom to do their own tracking?) Most important, we need some good analyses of how tightened restrictions on tracking will affect our economy and some of our most celebrated enterprises.