Gordon Crovitz is almost certainly right that we don't need more laws or government regulations on Internet privacy, especially related to advertising, but his column today arguing that point is humorous (I think unintentionally so, but Mr. Crovitz is so smart and has such a good sense of humor that you never know) on two fronts.
Start with the question in the column: "If most Americans are happy to have Facebook accounts, knowingly trading personal information for other benefits, why is Washington so focused on new privacy laws?" Gee, there is a real stumper. Might it possibly have anything to do with the fact that the largest-circulation newspaper in the country — the same one in which Mr. Crovitz's column appears — has been running a 15-part series campaigning on the topic?
Then comes this:
The advertising industry is using a service called TRUSTe, which adds an icon to online advertisements giving consumers the opportunity to learn more about how they are being tracked and to opt out. A recent study by DoubleVerify found that of five billion advertising impressions, only about 100,000, or 0.002%, led to a click on the icon to learn more about the advertising system serving the advertisement. Of the people who clicked to learn more about information being collected about them, only 1% then opted out of behavior targeted advertising.
That's an opt-out rate of just 0.00002%. People seem to have adjusted to this new technology faster than regulators are willing to admit.
I read Mr. Crovitz's column at WSJ.com twice. The first time I was served an accompanying ad for Goldman Sachs, the second time for the state of Ohio. Neither one had, so far as I could detect, any icon giving me an opportunity to learn more about how I was being tracked.