One of the more interesting aspects of the Internet revolution and evolution – has been tracking average Americans’ learning curve on what actually makes the Internet work.
Your data – is mostly what makes the Internet work. The old saw is:
“If something on the Internet is ‘free’ – you’re the product.”
Which means: Internet companies collect your data – and use it to sell advertisements. Lots and LOTS of ads – in hundreds of increasingly sly and creative ways.
There is a certain, very small subset of humanity that can create and deliver us new things – like the Internet. There is a slightly larger subset – with much Venn diagram overlap with the first – that immediately see ways to maximize the new things.
Very early on in the Internet’s history, a few far-sighted individuals saw what the number one commodity would be: You.
Your data. The more you do online – the more you reveal about yourself. And the more these far-sighted individuals – and the companies they founded to maximize the intel – have with which to work.
Most unfortunately, the vast majority of these individuals and their companies – are hard-core Leftists. And they LOVE cronying-up to government.
Which means the companies’ mass data on you – can smoothly become government’s mass data on you. And very often has.
This is, of course, a TITANIC problem. One we’ve often addressed. But it is not what we’ll address here and now.
We’ll instead address the (far less egregious) commercial use of our data. What we mentioned above. These companies collecting data on you – and using it to sell ads that are molded and shaped to (hopefully) best peak your interest. Just about every company with an online presence – engages in data collection.
Unfortunately, for two-plus decades most Americans didn’t realize their data is the coin of the Internet realm. They just logged on – and were wowed and thrilled by the wide array of “free” stuff on offer.
Because of course online companies give you “free” stuff – to get you to ever-increasingly spill to them your data guts.
Massive, MASSIVE companies have been built – giving stuff away “free.” At least a couple of which you may have heard – the aforementioned Google (market cap: $764 billion) and Facebook (market cap: $431 billion).
Facebook’s design – is simple and brilliant. One quarter of the entire planet’s population signed up with Facebook – to serially share every minute aspect of their existences. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg – simply has to harvest the data windfalls we incessantly hand him.
Google gives you all sorts of “free” stuff: Email, documents, calendars, etc, etc, etc…. Google tried Google Plus – their version of Facebook. But that was mostly a dud – and a data breach they failed to disclose has them sunsetting the site.
But Google’s mainline superhighway to you and your data – is their “free” Search.
“Google’s share of the search ad market is supposed to grow to more than 80 percent by 2019, according to research firm eMarketer….Last year, Google held 75.8 percent of the search ad market….”
Get that? Google got to a $764 billion market cap – almost exclusively by selling you.
Get that? There’s the average Americans’ data learning curve – which we previously referenced. Google figured out the online data thing right away. Average Jane and Joe – are just beginning to get it:
“If Google gives everything away for free – how are they worth $764 billion?”
Aye, Shakespeare – there’s the rub.
Again, nigh every company with a Web presence collects data – and uses it in exactly the same ways. Including the Internet companies that overtly charge you for things.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have thus far spent $1 trillion building the Information Superhighway. They build the roads – on which we travel the Web.
Without ISPs – none of us would ever have heard of the likes of Google and Facebook. Because we’d have no way to get to them.
After several ad-supported “free” ISP attempts – Reality set in. ISPs realized to get to the ever-increasing speeds and access we desired – they had to charge us. To generate the revenue necessary to deliver us the ever-increasing speeds and access we desired.
Which for two-plus decades – made ISPs the Internet’s villains. The likes of Google and Facebook were crashing the ISPs’ party – and handing out “free” stuff. The ISPs had to pay for the kegs, liquor and food – so they collected a cover at the door.
When so much Internet stuff is “free” – no one likes the one guy charging you. Because human nature – and ignorance of how the Web works.
And over the Internet’s quarter century, ISPs have increased access speeds by many orders of magnitude. And the cost per mbps (a unit of data measurement) – has dropped precipitously. We now get MUCH faster speeds – at a MUCH lower pro-rated rate.
In order to charge us less – ISPs also collect data and sell ads. But ISPs collect MUCH less data than the likes of Google and Facebook.
ISPs just get us to the stores – they can’t see inside. Google and Facebook follow us into the stores, meticulously watch us as we browse – and duly notate what we ultimately purchase.
That’s exponentially more data on us – assimilated by them.
Finally: Enter the shambling, shuffling, excruciatingly slow government bureaucrats. Who are decidedly less fast – than just about everyone else on the planet. They are still struggling to figure out that Internet companies – collect data and sell ads.
God bless recently retired Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. Who in a hearing late last year – The Year of Our Lord 2018 – with Facebook’s Zuckerberg…had the following (edited) exchange:
Hatch: “Mister Zuckerberg, I remember well your first visit to Capitol Hill back in 2010. You spoke to the Senate Republican High Tech Task Force – which I chair. You said back then that Facebook would always be free. Is that still your objective?”
Zuckerberg: “Senator, yes….”
Hatch: “Well if so – how do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?”
(A stunned and very bemused) Zuckerberg: “Senator…we run ads.”
Hatch: “I see. That’s great.”
Hatch – was the Chairman of the Senate Republican High Tech Task Force. And in The Year of Our Lord 2018 – asked this inconceivably rudimentary Internet question at a government hearing.
We can be forgiven for being…a bit concerned…about how government bureaucrats will handle data privacy laws and regulations.
Which government bureaucrats are now looking to impose. In Congress – and in many states around the country.
We will say it again: States should NOT be unilaterally regulating the World Wide Web.
Because it is a WORLD Wide Web. Which quite obviously makes it the purview of the federal government. The Feds should regulate it domestically – and negotiate our Internet’s interactions with the rest of the planet.
Having thirty or forty different states regulating differently – is a massive violation of the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce Clause. And a business nightmare mess. Which is why The Founders wrote the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce Clause – to prevent these sorts of nightmare messes.
So from the states – we want nothing.
From The Feds – we want the regulation of companies’ data collection and use to be wise and prudent. Which means it should be limited.
This ain’t the ridiculous, pointless, solution-in-search-of-a-problem massive over-regulation known as Network Neutrality. If you over-regulate data collection – you really will kill the Internet as we know it.
Also, we want another portion of the Constitution to be honored and to which be adhered – the Fourteenth Amendment, and its Equal Protection Clause.
We want ALL Internet companies’ data collection – to be treated by the law exactly the same.
As we mentioned, Leftist Big Tech companies have long been crony-ing up with Big Government. So they have time and again received ridiculous government favoritism.
To wit: The titanically stupid Net Neutrality – massively over-regulated ISPs, but didn’t apply at all to the likes of Google and Facebook.
We need to skip the cronyism this go round. For a scintillatingly exciting change of pace.
Law regulating Internet data collection and use – must apply to everyone equally. ISPs and Big Tech companies alike. In fact, to everyone who collects and uses data. Equally.
Light – and equal. The recipe for successful Internet data privacy legislation.
This first appeared in Red State.