As reported in the Wall Street Journal, we should be encouraged that privacy hearings today in front of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet will take into account the uses of consumer data not just online, but offline. According to the report by Emily Steel, Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Rick Boucher (D., VA) has promised a broader inquiry. "A number of parties have suggested it would be appropriate to extend these privacy rights as a consumer protection to the offline side as well," The Journal quotes him saying.
Aside from the fairness issues that get addressed by casting a wider net, it will certainly invite many more voices into the fray that might have been standing back in the shadows half hoping (who are we kidding - fully hoping) that the Internet would get cut-off at the knees. Better competition through regulation. The Internet fell silent on the issue of privacy after the Internet bubble in 2001/2002 and now it struggles to sound credible when it opens its mouth. Some of the other voices that have been using, say, in-store purchase data over the years might help bring much needed weight and perspective to the discussion.
Politics and issue advocacy groups, charitable organizations, and the like, should also be folded into the conversation. I go back to my evening call from Mitt Romney during the Presidential race last year. The need for advocates and candidates to reach voters with their messages is an honest requirement of a free and open society, even if voters don't want to listen (like me, hanging-up the telephone on poor Mitt). What separates this truth from the commerical interests of marketers, likewise at work in a free and open society? Money? It all runs on money. If privacy counts it ought to count, period.
Privacy is for all. One and all.