May 24, 2004

declan reasoned on privacy

The issue of Reason previously mentioned in this space has hit the newsstands. Declan McCullagh pens the cover story, “Database Nation: The upside of ‘zero privacy.’” It’s a remarkably balanced look at the costs and benefits of “the databasification of American society.”

Markets function more efficiently when it costs little to identify and deliver the right product to the right consumer at the right time. Data collection and information sharing emerged not through chance but because they bring lower prices and more choices for consumers.

It’s simple economics. Information sharing systems requiring opt-in consent create costs (direct costs related to management overhead and indirect costs related to more expensive product development and marketing efforts); costs which are eventually shouldered by consumers in the form of higher prices or reduced choice.