By Paul W. Taylor
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) After a decade-long dalliance with what entrepreneur, Internet critic and author Andrew Keen calls “the cult of the amateur,” voices of expertise are regaining credibility. Technical experts, economists, policy analysts and entrepreneurs now register credibility levels of 50 percent or higher.
If you’ve ever written a policy statement on, say, privacy that nobody has ever read, you’ll be excused for enjoying the schadenfreude of this moment as Facebook, Google, Twitter and other technology platforms face scrutiny on both sides ofthe Atlantic.
You may have enjoyed the sight of Mark Zuckerberg wearing a suit — two days in a row — as he tried to explain himself during congressional hearings that generated little heat, and even less light.
But that feeling of joy from the “tech-lash” may be short lived. New but long-planned European privacy rules are pivoting the policy debate from Washington, D.C., to that unseen foreign shore. The irreducible core of the European privacy rules is the requirement to provide opt-in consent to share personally identifiable information, which includes the right to withdraw consent.
That is appealing to many users who have begun to reject the proposition that they pay for free services using personal data as currency. That’s enough to rock your business model. “However,” as fellow Government Technology columnist Daniel Castro reminds us, “sharing data on Facebook is a feature, not a bug.” Castro, who is also the vice president of the non-partisan Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), cautions that becoming even vaguely European would “stymie the U.S. digital economy.”
ITIF and other like-minded organizations are not wrong when they insist that we have to define the problem correctly if we are going to find a suitable solution. That includes figuring out who should be held accountable for what, and where current laws (or their enforcement) fall short.