SOPA/PIPA Wakes Up Internet Giants To Realize They Need To Be More Engaged In DC

from the unfortunate-reality dept

Earlier today it was announced that a new industry trade association representing large internet companies, called The Internet Association, is going to be launching this fall, with Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook as the charter members. Part of the thinking behind this group stemmed from the realization of how little influence various internet companies had in DC when SOPA/PIPA came along last year -- and a concerted effort to change that.

Former Congressional staffer Michael Beckerman was officially named this morning as the organization's president. I got to meet with Beckerman last week and hear some of the details about the group. To be honest, I have very mixed feelings about all of this. I tend to believe that this group will be a force for good in supporting an open internet and related issues. Beckerman was quite frank about why this new group absolutely needs to be focused on supporting the views of the public (because unlike in some other industries, when an internet company diverges from the public interest, it's very easy for its users/customers to go elsewhere). One of the major concerns we discussed was where the interests of internet users and the large internet companies might diverge, and how this organization would deal with those situations. He was pretty adamant that if they're not doing a good job representing the public's interest as well, then the organization isn't doing its job. Hopefully that is true, but obviously it's a claim that deserves close scrutiny as this organization ramps up. Hopefully, Beckerman will model the organization on the success of organizations like CEA, who have built up a very strong reputation in recognizing that by fighting to protect consumers they do the best in the long run for the electronics companies they represent. CEA has a long history of putting consumers first on various issues (even when you could make the argument that their own members feel differently), and it's done well for itself. The Internet Association would do good to follow that lead.

So while I think that this organization is likely to be very helpful in various fights to protect the open internet, I'm a bit disappointed that the state of politics today means that something like this is even needed. And, as always, I worry about large industry players working towards efforts to maintain their position, rather than supporting actual innovation. We've certainly seen large companies who were once innovative later turn around and fight against disruption and defend the status quo. Hopefully that's not what will happen with the Internet Association. Beckerman appears to have a good grasp on the issues, so I'm encouraged by the idea that there will be an organization like this in DC, focused exclusively on internet-related issues, even as I'm disappointed that it's necessary.

One bit of advice, since I know many folks here will automatically be allergic to the idea of any sort of new DC-based trade group, even if it's likely to be fighting against groups that seek to harm the open internet: one way to hopefully avoid a bad result is to engage with this new group. Help them continue to fight the good fight by working with them, rather than automatically dismissing them. Beckerman definitely seems interested in engaging people well beyond just the companies that are members of the association (which, as I understand it, is looking for additional members), and hopefully the more he engages with people who have a personal interest in an open internet, the more he'll be able to help.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    Alana (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 3:56pm

    The war for the internet has begun!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      STStone, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:03pm

      Re:

      Oh, God, please don't call this a "war".

      We have enough "concept wars" in existence already, and I'd rather not have a "war on/for (x)" label slapped on the debate over SOPA, PIPA, and its various American and global brethren.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
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        AzureSky (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:10pm

        Re: Re:

        dont worry, i doubt even the oBomBa admin can manage to inject army troops into the internet to do raids and bombings.....

        not that they wouldnt try.....and fear not, given enough time our govt will decide its time to go to full out war on the net.....its what we do......we like war.....we are good at wars.....

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 5:22pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "dont worry, i doubt even the oBomBa admin can manage to inject army troops into the internet to do raids and bombings....."

          I guess Mr. Dotcom just hallucinated 70 heavily armed anti-terrorist swat team soldiers, then.

           

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            Chargone (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 6:03am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            while your point is well made, might want to double check the facts there.

            there may or may not have been soldiers involved (i am unsure) but to the best of my knowledge said individuals were NZ law enforcement. meaning they are not SWAT but the Armed Offenders Squad. who are not as heavily armed and who's methods seem to generally involve less shooting and blowing up of things (mostly due to the need for it coming up less, granted) than i understand to be the case with SWAT, but can and do get military backup when necessary. (nothing like an NZLAV to ruin your day. 22.x mm autocannon, anyone?)

             

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          Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 5:44pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "dont worry, i doubt even the oBomBa admin can manage to inject army troops into the internet to do raids and bombings....."

          Of course, if RomBomb gets elected, with his penchant for war-based imagery...

           

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          identicon
          Steve, Jul 26th, 2012 @ 7:52am

          Re: Re: Re:

          You're actually rubbish at wars, that's why they go on for so long and you have to keep practicing. But you do love em' i'll give you that. ;)

           

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:10pm

      Re:

      it began long time ago, and its one that Hollywood lost a long time ago.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2012 @ 4:22am

      Re: War

       

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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:03pm

    Easy to go elsewhere?

    (because unlike in some other industries, when an internet company diverges from the public interest, it's very easy for its users/customers to go elsewhere)


    Really? Are you seriously claiming that vendor lock-in is not a significant factor on the Internet? If you really believe that, please explain to me how you would go about switching from Facebook or Gmail to a competing service, in the hypothetical case that you should want to...

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:08pm

      Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

      umm, you sign in?

       

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    •  
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      gnudist, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:09pm

      Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

      Just use a different fucking site and tell people to contact you there.

       

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        Mason Wheeler (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:21pm

        Re: Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

        No, I'm not looking for glib, one-line answers. Answers like that to serious questions that require some real thought make you look stupid. (And incidentally, so does using profanity when discussing something serious.)

        Try thinking about the ramifications for a minute or two. I'll give you a few hints:

        What people do you tell to contact you there? How many people know about your current address/profile/whatever? What happens to anyone you forget to tell about the switch if they need to contact you?

        What about other websites that you have an account with that are associated with that account? How many of those do you have? And how many of them use that account ID as your primary identity key? (For example, think about how you log in to PayPal.)

        How would you move your historical data to the new service? Last I heard, Facebook was actively doing everything it can to make it difficult for you to automate that sort of work.

        So no, "just using a different site" does not work.

        Anyone got any serious answers?

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:31pm

          Re: Re: Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

          'just use a different site' is the only answer. That is how we switched from MySpace, Friendster and so on. Your complaint is that its hard. Well boo hoo hoo, you have to make a new account and tell people about it, poor you.

          What, do you want some magical bot script to switch you to a new network in a few seconds?

           

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        •  
          identicon
          gnudist, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:37pm

          Re: Re: Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

          If I can do it so can you.

           

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 5:02pm

          Re: Re: Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

          Yes:
          Send a note to your contacts with a URL to the new place. Same way you tell people a new mailing address or cellphone.

          Copy paste the history to Word if you really think its worth keeping. But really, is it? probably not in the long run

          Delete fucking everything from the old site's profile and keep it around for logins to other websites if you think its absolutely necessary, otherwise take ~5 mins and setup a new account/change some account settings on the existing.

          Finally- ween yourself from apparent dependence upon social networks so you can be more agile and sophisticated online.

           

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          The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 5:37pm

          Re: Re: Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

          How about "There is no issue, you just haven't spent the requisite few minutes to learn how."? This is largely a solved problem. Even for the average user. For those with even a little basic perl under their belts, it hasn't been a common issue in over a decade.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 5:40pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

            Indeed, everyone stop talking about this please and start talking about trying to contact these guys.

             

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          Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 6:37pm

          Re: Re: Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

          The problem people are missing is that, just like the MAFIAA did/does, the new establishment will do everything to keep new upstarts from growing & being able to compete.

          Look at all the services the MAFIAA has successfully destroyed, imagine that when Google turns inevitably evil. It's a scary thought.

           

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            gnudist, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 7:20pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

            Commenter bringing up legitimate concern or MAFIAA shill trying a new tactic?

            50/50 shot either way.

             

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              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 9:57pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

              I wouldn't trust any multi-national, multi-billion dollar company to do what's in the best interest of the people. Can anyone find me a single historic example?

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 11:33pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

                If we can't trust any multi-national, multi-billion dollar company to do what's in the best interest of the people I have no idea why governments let the MAFIAA claim to do just that and end up doing whatever they want.

                 

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          art guerrilla (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 7:18am

          Re: Re: Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

          O.
          M.
          G.
          i'm moving from one house to another, and it will be -like- impossible to track down everyone and tell them i've moved ! ! !
          i mean, think of all the utility companies i will have to *TRY* and track down to tell them this... all the companies i do business with who will be puzzled that their junk mail no longer reaches me... how will people know my new phone number ? ? ? sweet geebus, this is totally out of control ! ! !
          oh well, guess it is so insurmountable, i just cain't nebber ebber move nowhere's else, no one will be able to figure it out...

          oh, and you are a fuckwad, mason jar head...
          if you can't stand a gratuitous insult and four-letter words, please get the fuck outta here, pantywaist...
          art guerrilla
          aka ann archy
          eof

           

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    •  
      icon
      AzureSky (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:15pm

      Re: Easy to go elsewhere?

      facebook...you leave after putting a link to your personal blog or g+ (or another similar service) page.

      gmail, just like you leave any other email service provider, you send out a mass email and setup an auto responder directing people to contact you at your new email addy.....

      this has been done for decades now....if you didnt know this, many people use to change ISP's alot and thus change email addys alot because they thought like my father still does that a free email addy isnt professional...over the decades I have been doing this, I can tell you, I have helped hundreds if not thousands of people migrate email provider to email provider.....its really not that hard.....

      there is no service online that cant be replaced with another.....

      hell how did people change from myspace to facebook.....from your logic it couldnt happen it would be to hard.....

       

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    sehlat (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:03pm

    One Problem With This Group is Obvious

    Namely, it will feed Hollywood's attitude that they don't have to deal with their serfs (aka the public) and can go back to swapping back-room deals with Google et. al.

     

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    skinny poppy (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:05pm

    It's hard to be optimistic about this.

     

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      Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 5:52pm

      Re:

      I agree.

      I fear this will only increase the lobbying and perpetuate the corruption.

      But I guess this is just a sign of the times we live in.

      I'll borrow a quote from a movie that I didn't think was a bad as everyone else thought it was:

      "In normal times, evil would be fought by good. But in times like these, well, it should be fought by another kind of evil."

       

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:12pm

    How about this instead

    Elected representatives stop representing the interests of big business and represent the interests of the public, who voted for them?

     

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      AzureSky (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:16pm

      Re: How about this instead

      good luck with that.....trying to find an honest politician is like trying to find a stray dog that dosnt have fleas.....

       

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        Chargone (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 6:06am

        Re: Re: How about this instead

        technically possible but incredibly unlikely?

         

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        DannyB (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 6:19am

        Re: Re: How about this instead

        A boy, finished visiting a grave is now leaving the cemetery. He notices a gravestone which reads:

        "Here lies an honest man and a politician."

        He says, "Hey mommy, why did they bury two people in this one grave?"

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:31pm

    add wikipedia and wikileaks to the roister, and id consider it evenly balanced, the more the merrier, and not just the giants, thankyou very much

     

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    Jacob Blaustein, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:44pm

    Idea

    See if any of theme will sign the Declaration of Internet Freedom or join the Internet Defense League. That would be such a good idea!

     

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    saulgoode (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 4:52pm

    I'm sure the California Earthquake Authority will be pleased to hear you hold them in such high regard; nonetheless, it is poor form to introduce a TLA without specifying what it represents.

     

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    mrtraver (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 5:04pm

    divide & conquer

    I like the idea i read a while back (somewhere on techdirt, I believe) of Microsoft, Apple, and Google buying up the major music labels and then withdrawing them from the RIAA, since even their own self-serving interests are more in line with consumer interests than the interests of the labels. Then once the music labels are dealt with, focus on hollywood/MPAA!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 5:08pm

      Re: divide & conquer

      See if you can't put this by them. :)

       

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      DannyB (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 6:24am

      Re: divide & conquer

      You know, there once was this great Japanese consumer electronics company that rhymes with Boney.

      They bought a major copyright cancer thinking they could control it. Instead it ate away at them year by year until that company is now a proponent of DRM and hacking unauthorized rootkits onto your PC in the name of protecting a single audio CD.

       

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    Rekrul, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 5:40pm

    Part of the thinking behind this group stemmed from the realization of how little influence various internet companies had in DC when SOPA/PIPA came along last year -- and a concerted effort to change that.

    They have more influence than they realize. Just shutting down their services for a day causes major internet disruption.

    ISPs have even more power. Imagine what would happen if the largest ISPs completely shut down for a day. Or disconnected the politicians proposing such laws.

    The entertainment industry might have the government's ear, but the internet companies can pull the plug.

     

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      The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 5:50pm

      Re:

      Once or twice for critical events, sure. Every time media publishers are being asshats? Nah. Way too many of their users don't care and would be more pissed off at service being regularly degraded.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 8:06pm

    Where's the public's voice?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 8:26pm

    " Part of the thinking behind this group stemmed from the realization of how little influence various internet companies had in DC when SOPA/PIPA came along last year -- and a concerted effort to change that. "

    I think that part of it also comes from where Google has been standing before. Google tried to play DC all secret, using money through various foundations and such to fund groups such as EFF to do their work for them. That isn't working, and the absence of Google particularly in the debate is seen as a big hole in discussions. Google can't hide out anymore.

    It will be interesting to watch the funding levels from various sources of this group, I wouldn't be shocked to see this just be a Google mouth piece with a few dollars tossed in from other sources to call it "industry" rather than a singular company's shilling organization.

     

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      teka (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 10:32pm

      Re:

      When hollywood trade groups throw money and influence around DC it is democracy.

      When Internet/Tech trade groups ask to have a seat in the room where massive deals are going on that effect them (and us) that is obviously backroom suspicious evilness full of shadowy money and mouthpieces for despicable puppetmasters.

      Thanks for clearing that up Anon.

       

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    Rob Pegoraro (profile), Jul 25th, 2012 @ 8:46pm

    It will have competition

    What did Beckerman say about how this new organization will fit in next to all of the existing lobbies that claim to represent Internet users and entrepreneurs: EFF, Public Knowledge, CDT, Free Press, Engine Advocacy, Disruptive Competition Project, and so on? It's never seemed that Washington has lacked for somebody to say "this is bad for an open Internet"; it just needs a greater willingness among elected officials to listen.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 12:34am

      Re: It will have competition

      What did Beckerman say about how this new organization will fit in next to all of the existing lobbies that claim to represent Internet users and entrepreneurs: EFF, Public Knowledge, CDT, Free Press, Engine Advocacy, Disruptive Competition Project, and so on?

      I asked that very question. The differences, as Beckerman explained it, were that (1) this would only be for larger internet companies and (2) would be a true trade association, rather than a "public interest" advocacy group or whatever. All of the ones you've listed above are more public interest groups, with the exception of Engine Advocacy, who represents small companies/entrepreneurs, and isn't a true trade association.

       

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    identicon
    Lennart Regebro, Jul 25th, 2012 @ 8:53pm

    It will be a force for good!

    Until it becomes a big powerful lobbying group, and then it will get corrupt and be a force for bad.

    I'll give it ten years.

     

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    Josef Anvil (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 1:23am

    Mixed feelings

    "To be honest, I have very mixed feelings about all of this."

    I think most of us had that same reaction. It sounds like a good thing, but if you take human nature, money, and power into consideration, then this has all the makings of a future tragedy.

    On the surface; the combination of Google, Amazon, eBay, and Facebook should be enough to make the MPAA and RIAA shudder in fear the next time they decide to hijack the internet through IP enforcement. But the potential for corruption is very high.

    What happens when Microsoft and Apple want in?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2012 @ 2:05am

    i think my concern is that although he may say that he wants to engage with people, when push comes to shove, will he actually take any notice? seen too often people come out with the 'good intentions' only to find that what they want is not only different but far more important to them and much more likely to be done!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2012 @ 2:28am

    Dumb move.

    They just made themselves a giant target for anyone that believes in intellectual property.

    I predict they'll realize their mistake and let this die a quiet death.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2012 @ 5:03am

      Re:

      They also made themselves an ally of anyone who wants freedom on the internet. Compared to the people who believe is state granted monopoly they're the bigger force.

       

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    drew (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 2:51am

    Interesting timing

    It was just this week that someone made a comment on another thread to the effect that the web has been around long enough now for legacy-industry-behaviours (or Innovator's Dilemma) to start appearing.
    This might well be considered to be a manifestation of that effect.

    On a related note, where's Paywall Bob and his Big Search commentary? This should be his time to shine!

     

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    Ninja (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 3:37am

    I hear the MAFIAA trembling on its knees. I wonder who has deeper pockets? Hint: most of the top 10 companies in the US are tech related.

     

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    anon, Jul 26th, 2012 @ 6:33am

    Could this work...

    I hope it does work, i mean there is so much lobbying by those that want to make money from copyright for themselves and not for the artists, or creators of the content.

    If they support copyright as it was first written, which was to prevent big business taking content from someone and using it to make bazillions from it while only paying the artists a pittance, i will then support them.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jul 26th, 2012 @ 6:19pm

    And where will this organization fall on privacy issues?

    I'm going to guess that many of these companies will lobby hard against limiting their ability to collect and sell user data. And I am going to guess that if it's up to citizens, users will want to control their own data. I don't anticipate there will be across the board agreement between companies and users about privacy issues.

    And I am also going to guess that the companies collecting this data will argue in Washington that they can't make a profit if they don't collect and sell this data. We'll hear the same kinds of arguments as we have heard from big content companies in the past about how they need to be able to sell content or they can't make a living. "Facebook and Google have to do this data collection and work with advertisers or how else will they make any money?"

     

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