Questions of internet privacy and an encroaching federal government are not just ideological criticisms of big government. The issue is much broader than a ban on illegal online gambling and should raise concerns across the ideological spectrum. All internet users should be concerned about the government blocking access to websites or monitoring online transactions. What is at stake is protecting the rights of all individuals as guaranteed by the Constitution. Federal encroachment on the internet to regulate various activities politicizes innovation and encourages government regulation of legitimate commercial activity.
At a more fundamental level, the debate over privacy and government control of the internet should begin by addressing one important question: given the choice, how many Americans would want or permit the federal government to track their transaction history? Federal efforts to identify particular internet transactions are a clear threat to individual rights and protections granted under the United States Constitution. The Founding Fathers took great care to limit the sphere of government involvement in the affairs of individuals, and those limits should be honored wherever individuals choose to act.
Cyberspace is becoming a much more integral part of the lives of most individuals, with over 220 million users and roughly $3 billion in e-commerce activity in the United States alone. Mandates to regulate online activity should not be taken lightly and should require a thorough assessment of both the costs and benefits. Each new mandate offers a greater foothold for government control over the future development of the internet. But the internet has been able to evolve into such a dynamic and valuable resource precisely because it was free from regulatory impediments. Moving forward in the dawn of a new technological era, it would be wise to avoid unnecessary mandates and take steps to protect internet freedom forever.