Interoperability and Privacy: Squaring the Circle

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We’re still talking about regulating Facebook as if it were AT&T, when I believe a more apt comparison would be the gambling industry. When people talk about regulating gambling, ideas like making casinos honor each others’ chips would usually be irrelevant, because the main concern is to stop people gambling.

If other startups ate Facebook’s lunch, perhaps that would vaguely reduce their power to act with impunity. But most of the harm Facebook does isn’t illegal anyway, so if we stipulate that nothing will be done about that, does it really matter exactly what companies get to profit from that harm?

Figuring out the cure for Facebook is tricky however you slice it. I certainly don’t have the answer (other than the unhelpful “everyone should stop using it”), but I also don’t think it helps to load up on tenuous parables before we’ve even nailed down what the goal is.

The problems with Facebook are (1) industrial-scale privacy invasion and (2) the cornering of the market in people’s attention. The former is an entirely new problem, and the latter has never arisen in quite the same way (and never been dealt with especially well). IMO the question is “what is the most direct, minimal way to forbid these two outcomes?”

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