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Abstract

The demands of social democratic government, the growth of electronic commerce, and the advance of technology have fueled the debate over internet privacy. Technology offers unprecedented opportunities but can also become tools of abuse. Debate in the United States centers around the conflicting interests of industry self-control versus government regulation. Technological and market-based solutions are ineffective because they lead to inadequate and inconsistent protection. Many user-driven privacy choices can impede the growth of consumer trust. Voluntarily adopted privacy policies are either extremely limited or easily circumvented with tracking technology that allows no consumer control over the collection of their personal data. Incompatible national standards can disrupt data flow. The United States could address these concerns by shifting away from its industry and state-based regulatory model to one based on fair information practices, with oversight assigned to a single agency controlled by a U.S. Privacy Commissioner who could work with international officials to resolve complex privacy issues.

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