A late 1970’s television commercial for stock brokerage firm E.F. Hutton closed with the tagline, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” On technology-related policy matters in the 21st century, when Harold Feld talks, people listen. We now have the advantage of Harold’s speaking between two covers. The volume you hold in your hands is a tour de force of the issues raised by the digital economy and internet capitalism. Whether you agree or disagree with Harold, these thoughts will stretch your intellect and stimulate your thinking.
As Congress and other relevant stakeholders debate how to protect Americans’ privacy, a key concern is making sure that new legislation doesn’t entrench the power of big tech incumbents. In this post, we argue that incorporating data interoperability into privacy legislation is essential to empowering consumers’ data rights and fostering a competitive marketplace.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently published an op-ed in the Washington Post naming a role for government and regulation around four specific policies that continue to be concerns for users of Facebook and broader digital platforms. In two areas (privacy and political advertising) Zuckerberg reiterates Facebook’s agreement with previous legislative proposals, including parts of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and (although not named) concepts from the Honest Ads Act introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner, and the late John McCain. In addition to these two topics, Zuckerberg also moves towards responding to calls from the public interest community for stronger content moderation of hateful content and for meaningful data portability to promote competition in a market that trends towards dominant platforms. While some may view yet another Facebook op-ed cynically, I believe this one should be welcomed.
App stores, such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store, have been good for consumers and independent developers in a number of ways. When they work well, they provide consumers with a convenient way to find and buy software that is safe and functional. I remember when my non-technical friends would never install software on their PCs, assuming that it was all a scam or malware of some kind. Now these same people can confidently install, use, and uninstall apps without fearing that it will ruin their devices or steal their personal information. Again, this is when things are working right. There are always bad actors to be vigilant against, and different app store curators do their jobs more and less well.
The United Kingdom’s Digital Competition Expert Panel released its report, “Unlocking Digital Competition,” to the government yesterday. The report proposes policies that it says, “would create substantial benefits for UK consumers, businesses trying to start up and scale up in the UK, and greater predictability for the major digital companies.” The report argues that competition law and policy in the UK needs to be updated to address the current problems in the digital economy, but that additional tools beyond competition policy will have the biggest impact. “Strengthened antitrust enforcement, although having an important role, moves too slowly and, intentionally, resolves only issues narrowly focused on a specific case.”