The future of tech policy
Technology and the largest tech firms are becoming increasingly controversial. Today, there are growing concerns about third parties accessing and manipulating Facebook user data; and before that, there was a raging debate about whether the government should be able to unlock devices belonging to suspects of terrorism or other crimes. More broadly, technology-driven job dislocation has become a source of constant anxiety.
For all of these reasons, technology policy has taken centre stage, as I predicted it would exactly one year ago. Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently conceded in congressional testimony that some regulation of his industry is necessary, and there is now an open window of opportunity to pursue new policies for the sector. In formulating such policies – whether through legislation, regulatory rule-setting, international agreements, or measures addressing related issues such as tax and trade – the goal should be to limit the downsides of technology without stifling innovation. To that end, five interrelated issues should be kept in mind.
The first is privacy. Although the European Union’s far-reaching General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into force on May 25, it will not offer any protection for non-Europeans. In the case of Facebook, that translates into 1.5 billion users, almost all of whom have clicked to agree to the company’s terms of service without having read them.
There are currently proposals to require tech companies to obtain an affirmative opt-in from users before collecting their data, and to allow users to retrieve or erase their data easily. How customers and companies,