The web’s greatest shortcoming, as well the greatest shortcoming of the Internet before the web, is the absence of tools for commerce in the plumbing. The web needs to provide each user with a persistent identity – or more, and they don’t need to be real – and a dance card for all the permissions we’ve given for data collectors to record our activities.
Senator Al Franken got Silicon Valley’s attention by proposing to apply net neutrality regulations to mega-gatekeepers Google, Facebook, Twitter, et al. Writing in The Guardian, the senator correctly observed that…
The FCC was designed as an independent agency because the public is always biased in favor of the status quo. As Henry Ford may have said about his Model T, the public just wanted faster horses because they were scared of cars.
“Don’t collect what you can’t protect” seems like a reasonable approach. Given that the current discourse is all about collection, we probably won’t have the conversation we need to have for a long time. And in the meantime we’re going to hear nothing but nonsense about gatekeepers, “sensitive” browsing histories, and how hard it may be to switch ISPs (as if we don’t do that several times more often than we switch social networks and search providers.
Our web activity is tracked by “edge services” such as Google and Facebook even if we don’t go to their web sites. This is because they both operate tracking networks with the cooperation of web sites that carry their tracking code.
Yes. Does Google track you outside of google.com? Yes. Does Google share sensitive data about you with third parties it collects from sites like edmarkey.com and standtallforamerica.com? I don’t know that it does, but it’s entitled to by its privacy disclosures. And the same goes for a dozen other trackers unleashed on web users who visit these two sites.
The FCC has made a number of expected decisions on pending issues and signalled a willingness to alter the course of network regulation in a more permissive, innovation-friendly direction. Here are some highlights of recent actions.