Tim Cook wrote an opinion piece in Time (link) talking about the need for greater regulation as well as a data brokerage service where consumers have the ability to find out who is using and selling their personal information along – greater transparency across the board. I have to admit, I like the idea of greater transparency because although Steve Jobs did talk about ensuring that customers give permission when an application wishes to access personal data or use a piece of hardware that can capture information (GPS, camera, microphone etc) the problem is there is little in the way of answering the question of what happens to the information after one gives permission. It is one thing to give permission but without the context of what the vendor is actually going to do with the information not to mention having some sense of control after the organisation gets the information makes the dialogue a tick box rather than something that is actually empowering.
With all that being said, I wonder to what extent the publicly actually do have concern regarding privacy and the use of private information given the public’s willingness to keep using Facebook (along with WhatsApp and Instagram) even after the avalanche of revelations came out over the last few years. You’d think that after all the revelations and even more revelations which turned out to be in some cases worse than the prior ones that people would start closing their Facebook accounts but alas here we are almost 2-3 years later and nothing has happened – people still have their Facebook accounts and new accounts are being opened all the time which makes me wonder whether people are genuinely concerned about privacy or is it noise and protest all for show but behind closed doors people don’t actually care.
I think the larger question is whether certain services can and should be treated as natural monopolies due to the higher barriers entry such as high initial start up costs, the years of running at a loss before either breaking even or becoming part of a larger organisation not to mention trying to bring ‘stars’ over to said platform which make the platform useful to end users – in much the same way that a mobile platform is only useful based on the applications that are available to end users on said platform. This goes back to the question about de-platforming – if the number of platforms are limited and the possibility of setting up new platforms is next to impossible then do those entrenched natural monopolies have a responsibility in much the same way that within the European Union a monopoly has a greater responsibility to ensure that the the monopoly isn’t entrenched (see EU demanding that Microsoft open up various protocols and file formats for better interoperability) and free speech isn’t stifled due to the lack of available platforms now that the internet has become ‘speakers corner’/’the village square’.
That all being said, I think the inherent nature of capitalism with its capital accumulation (and concentration) which leads to political capture (the capturing of politics by those with money) will make any meaningful change impossible resulting in any legislation being passed being half assed and watered down to the point of being useless in much the same way the Dodd-Frank never addressed ‘too big to fail’ by not only breaking up the banks (investment separated from retail banking) but actually turning these banks into credit unions which would undermine the whole concentration of power (the reality is that there are a small number of people/organisations that own the majority of the shares). Who benefits after all this? Apple because they’re already ahead of the curve – “see, we can be trusted because we go beyond what the law requires”.