Don’t count on governments to protect your privacy
Let’s look to technologies like blockchain and other innovations to keep our data private.
Imagine that Congress proposed a law that made postage free in the United States. Even in the digital age, this would be quite convenient. The only catch? In exchange for free mail, postmasters would be permitted to open your mail and read our letters and bills. The benefit, postmasters would insist, is they would know when you’re planning a family vacation. And then the post office could send you hotel recommendations or advice for the best restaurants and activities.
On second thought, you might rather pay the 55 cents for postage if it meant keeping advertisers from knowing the location and itinerary of your family vacation before you even get on the plane.
We prefer that strangers not read our mail — that’s why we’ve made doing so a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison. We have blinds because we don’t want outsiders peering into our homes. We have laws to protect our health care records because we definitely don’t need strangers knowing our medical history.
So why should we treat our online identities — and privacy — any differently?
The answer to this question — posed by Tom Siebel, a tech entrepreneur — clearly is that we should not. But if we are to secure our data in an increasingly digital world, should we expect government to singularly and effectively do the job for us? I would argue, no.
Some politicians, primarily those running for president, have called for brute government intervention, including breaking up big companies like Google or Facebook. This clarion call has the benefit of simplicity, but has failed to explain how it will increase security for our data. What does forcing Facebook to sell WhatsApp have to do with Facebook or WhatsApp collecting, exploiting and selling our data?
Others are calling for invasive congressional regulation. But as history tells us, overly broad and indiscriminate regulation often insulates the incumbents and boxes out the upstarts and smaller firms — a consequence we’ve experienced with the Dodd-Frank financial regulations law. Even Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, acknowledged this possible outcome to Congress a year ago.
Unsurprisingly, these remedies lean on the premise that only government can solve market inefficiencies that lead to irresponsible corporate behavior.
I don’t think we should feel confident that the bureaucratic leviathan has what it takes to develop or enforce nimble responses to rapid change in the technology industry.
We should look instead to the greatest driver of competition, the free market, for the most compelling responses to our privacy concerns.
Original article published by Kevin McCarthy