Sometimes I take a break from writing about the basics and veer down the slippery slope of politics. At times I enjoy musing over the cosmic struggle between the government and the private sector and lending my voice in support of Internet freedom and privacy. Today’s article highlights my opinion about the role of big government in the future of privacy.
Since the dawn of the Information Age, the threat of data breaches and compromised private information has loomed large. Unfortunately, preventing such attacks has become increasingly complex, allowing a sharp rise in high profile breaches. Technology companies are failing to provide the privacy that consumers have come to implicitly expect. Not surprisingly, the resulting public outrage has grown exponentially.
For example, consider the sordid attack of September 28, 2018, which will forever darken our digital history. In one fell sweep, a malicious outsider acquired the private data of at least 30 million Facebook users. This breach, alongside dozens of others, has served as a catalyst to a raging debate. Everyone suddenly has a vested interest in the future of privacy, and it has created the proverbial elephant in the room.
Politicians and government agencies alike are naturally seizing this opportunity to propose a host of new regulations. Once under the microscope, however, we quickly discover serious flaws. In fact, it almost seems as if this legislation is merely a crutch to satiate the public ire. Let us examine the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect in Europe in 2018.
Although it had been passed two years prior, it was still widely perceived as a reflexive reaction by the European Union to ward off the infamous elephant. And sadly, that is exactly what it was. French regulator Mathias Moulin was quick to point out that 2018 “should be considered a transition year,” and yet the statistics are still trickling in.
The GDPR is failing at enforcing its bulwark statute, which levies fines against companies who experience data breaches. Data from the GDPR Summit in March 2019 showed that over a nine-month period, fines imposed totaled only 55,955,871 euros. One attendee was Refinitiv CPO Vivienne Artz, and during her speech, she leaned heavily on these facts. We learned that over 90% of that revenue was from a single 50 million euro fine levied against Google. Suffice it to say, she effectively stifled any remaining sense of accomplishment.
The GPDR is just one line in a gloomy saga of government intervention in the private sector. Time would fail me to dissect other issues such as net neutrality and device backdoors, but one lesson rings clear. Politicians consistently fail to realize the free market is a living organism. Much like a natural ecosystem, the more we tamper with it, the more damage we do to the future of privacy.
The Balance of Nature
Essentially mirroring Darwin’s Theory of Evolution with its ebb and flow, the free market nourishes a sort of primordial mud. From the ooze, new startups constantly sprout up, feeding upon the bygone stanchions. It also has its own set of checks and balances, and forces companies that cannot perform as expected into extinction.
When governments intervene with this delicate balance, it upsets the global ecosystem of commerce and trade. This creates a trickle-down effect on prices and the availability of goods. And who ultimately pays that bill? You and me! This meddling serves no actual purpose, and it does nothing but hurt the consumer.
Does this mean that our governments should be powerless over the private sector? Absolutely not! The enforcement of labor laws, equal opportunity statutes, and safety regulations are fine examples of beneficial legislation. However, we must draw a hard line. When politicians attempt to regulate businesses beyond enforcing these fundamental human rights, they have gone too far.
Ensuring a meatpacking plant maintains cleanliness standards is within the regulatory purview. We don’t need a hospital visit to decide that we never want E. coli. However, punishing a company for a data breach is totally different. The future of privacy must be forged by consumers and companies who care.
This plague of security breaches already has a common enemy across the entire free market. There is no need for legislation to further clog the wheels of commerce. Our elected officials conveniently circumvent the source of the problem, and it is up to We the People to change that.
Hope for the Future
Allowing the big government to address our delinquent elephant in the room may well be the swiftest solution. Much like a successful portfolio, however, the private sector must continuously churn in the smelting pot. Businesses take time to develop and mature. I think this quote from the Forbes Technology Council sums it up best.
“For one, taking a proactive approach to regulation is far cheaper than waiting for the government to set the rules for you. That’s because lawmakers never regulate with efficiency in mind. Instead, they aim for lowest-common denominator solutions -- blanket policies that cover an entire industry and establish the broadest compliance requirements, regardless of how feasible it is to meet them.”
In the end, it is the responsibility of the public to educate themselves. We create our own destiny. Either we elect officials who are equally well-versed, or we allow democracy to suffer. This is the only way to prevent the imposition of such gross overreaches of power.
Thank you for taking the time to read, and let me know what you think in the comments below. This is an opinionated topic, and I’m curious to hear your perspective! Feel free to share on social media as well!