The Privacy Debate

Over the past week, I have seen a lot of outrage over the rollback of rules regarding Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  Let’s get something straight off the bat.  The internet is being regulated by rules that were written in 1933 for a nascent phone industry.  Shouldn’t we start thinking about what rules and regulations should look like with a clean slate since the technology is so different and the downstream effects so different?

That being said, Democrats accused Republicans of stripping their privacy.  Republicans voted to allow ISPs to collect your browsing data and sell it.  The confirmation bias built into 50% of the country has caused them to automatically point their finger at those dirty corporate Republicans.  Comcast has been contemplating an advertising unit and there is probably a lot of fervor inside the company regarding that expansion now.  However, technology being technology, there is already a hack out there to protect your online privacy.  VPN’s will work too.

Here is the thing that makes the argument sort of disingenuous.  Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and the rest of the big corporates have been collecting and selling your information for years.  The switch Obama made benefitted their business.  Lots of businesses collect data on you and microtarget you.  Marketing and advertising have been revolutionized.  Some people actually like it.  It saves them time because the internet delivers them things they like.  The other thing to remember is there is an interagency bureaucratic fight going on inside the government between the FTC and FCC over who can regulate what.  Obama moved a lot of authority to the FCC.  That’s being rolled back.

If we were thinking critically about this problem, we wouldn’t be talking about ISP’s having our data and if it’s right or wrong.  The real problem is that in many areas of the country people only have one ISP to choose from.  That’s anti-competitive.  At least I can choose not to use Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon.  I might be stuck with my ISP.  I can understand them not liking the change that was made.

Shouldn’t we be screaming loud and hard to deregulate the ISP business so there is hyper-competition which would drive costs down and increase speeds?  It seems to me is both political parties are guilty of writing rules that enshrine a regulated monopoly cutting competition and increasing all our costs for service.