Privacy Substitutes

Publication Type: 
Academic Writing
Publication Date: 
September 3, 2013

Privacy Substitutes by Jonathan Mayer & Arvind Narayanan

Debates over information privacy are often framed as an inescapable conflict between competing interests: a lucrative or beneficial technology, as against privacy risks to consumers. Policy remedies traditionally take the rigid form of either a complete ban, no regulation, or an intermediate zone of modest notice and choice mechanisms. We believe these approaches are unnecessarily constrained. There is often a spectrum of technology alternatives that trade off functionality and profit for consumer privacy. We term these alternatives “privacy substitutes,” and in this Essay we argue that public policy on information privacy issues can and should be a careful exercise in both selecting among, and providing incentives for, privacy substitutes.

Also available from Stanford Law Review Online.