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[liberationtech] Privacy, Moglen, @ioerror, #rp12

Jordan McCarthy jrmccarthy at stanford.edu
Thu May 10 08:37:08 PDT 2012


I'm not sure why corporations should deserve any less blame or more
benefit-of-the doubt than states when they often behave in very similar
ways.  Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and most other technological
behemoths with sufficient clout have shown no reluctance to set and
enforce behavioral standards for their users with all of the brazen
enthusiasm of despotic states, by way of encoding those norms into the
foundations of their technological platforms - and then doing everything
they can to get their users completely hooked on those platforms.  Is
Facebook really behaving all that differently than a government when it
acts as the Internet's main identity validation and verification system
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/16/facebook-verified-accounts_n_1281715.html),
literally issuing digital passports that allow their holders to
participate in a wide range of on-line (and, increasingly, off-line)
activities (http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/26086/,
http://www.geektown.ca/2012/05/bouncers-demanding-to-see-facebook-on-phones-as-id.html)? 
How about when it establishes and enforces rules for what sorts of
communication are acceptable on the platform and which aren't, for all
of its 800 million users
(http://gawker.com/5885836/facebook-releases-new-content-guidelines-now-allows-bodily-fluids)? 


A secondary point: yes, we ostensibly have "competition" to balance out
companies' overall influence on society.  But when a corporate player
becomes as dominant as Facebook is in the social networking market, its
competitors' products often starts to look eerily similar to its own. 
After all, the competing products deviate too much from the standard
that has been set by the dominant player, few people will be willing to
invest the effort to make the transition.  And more to the point, the
standard set by the dominant player clearly /works.  /Consider how
similar the GUIs for iOS, Windows, and Linux (generally) are; how many
companies Apple is now suing for patent infringement because their
flagship smartphones look too much like the iPhone; how strong the
expectation has become that people should have a social networking
presence of some kind, and how little difference there are between the
available modes of expression on most of those platforms.  Is the
existance of 300 slightly-different microblogging GUIs evidence of true
innovation? 

As far as I can tell from having lived in a pretty staunchly free-market
society for all of my life, in a free market companies aren't really
trying to compete (eg, offer a variety of /different/ interpretations of
a product); they're trying to be the /absolute best/ in their corner of
the market.  It stands to reason that the most efficient way to do this
would not necessarily be to innovate, but rather to simply copy whatever
the current market leader is doing to the greatest extent legally
possible.  Unbridled competition can thus be seen as an impediment to,
rather than a catalyst for, true innovation - and a powerful driver of
the expansion of the influence of the corporate world on individual
behavior. 

My point is simply that corporations exert plenty of regulatory power in
and of themselves, even in the presence of so-called competition.  And
if there are no external mechanisms for reigning large corporations'
pursuit of market dominance, they may end up regulating us in ways that
are far more disturbing and dangerous than the government regulation
that so many seem inclined to vilify.

Just my two cents,

- Jordan

On 05/10/2012 07:41 AM, Pavol Luptak wrote:
> On Thu, May 10, 2012 at 12:01:41PM +0200, Andre Rebentisch wrote:
>> Am 10.05.2012 05:22, schrieb Pavol Luptak:
>>> Consider censorship, data retention laws - from the business point
>>> of view it does not make sense - on a free market censorship is
>>> definitely not a competitive advantage, nobody voluntarily will
>>> pay for censored Internet, also data retention is usually too
>>> expensive in contrast with fact that most ISPs want to offer as
>>> cheap as possible services because it is another competitive
>>> advantage.
>> Behind EU data retention was largely the content industry. AT&T
>> (without genuine business in Europe) lobbied heavily in Brussels.
>> Formal pretext was the Madrid bombing. There are also more cynical
>> arguments like saving the children.
> But this is still not a problem of corporations, but governments as a SPOF
> (Single-Point-of-Failure) what means that they are monopolies for law and 
> therefore can be easily lobbied and corrupted by private corporations. 
> Without the governments (or their monopoly to laws) it would be impossible to 
> enforce the data retention law widely in the whole EU
> Many people do not realize this fact but without governments, big corporations
> would probably have smaller power than now, because now they can lobby easily
> governments to approve various laws to protect their business.
>
> Especially critical this is in Slovakia (see one of the biggest scandal here
> http://www.economist.com/node/21543398 ) that revealed that our Slovak
> government is under a direct control of big financial groups (Penta, J&T), so
> we have do not have 'democracy', but a pure corporativism (the situation is
> not much different in the US I guess :-) And the power of these private
> financial groups is big just because they lobby our government and control 
> the laws to support their businesses. Without the government they would loose
> the "government-control ability" and would be probably much more weaker on
> a free-market.
>
>> In ordoliberal terms the purpose of a strong state is to make a
>> genuine market happen, to enforce competition. Dominant companies
>> have no genuine interest in competition in a market system because
>> it eats their profits away.
> Firstly, I think that monopolies are created by the governments (we are not
> protected by the governments against dominant companies' monopolies as many
> people think). The explanation is here:
>
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eO8ZU7TeKPw
>
> I can tell you many examples how monopolies/olygopolies are created by 
> the EU regulations.
>
>> Think of a small and weak state which entirely depends on the
>> banking industry or oil or fisheries. It is a matter of balance and
> Every small and weak state can decide to become offshore and gain a big
> competitive advantage compared to the other countries :-)
>
>> gravity. If you complain about Paypal's services in Europa you'd
>> wonder why Luxembourg has not the balls to enforce basic customer
>> service standards. If you pay taxes wonder why IT companies formally
>> base their EMEA operations in Ireland.
> Luxembourg is a country with strong economical stability (some Luxembourg 
> economical laws are from Napoleon's times :) and this stability is a reason 
> why many companies prefer this country in spite of the fact they lack some 
> service standards.
>
> So in this situation you choose between a company with really stable background
> in Luxembourg or company with customer service standards...
>
> Pavol
>
>
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