“if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the 
product”..............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

This week Mark Zuckerberg fronted the US Senate Commerce, Science and 
Transportation committee, like a misbehaving schoolboy being sent to the 
headmaster’s office. It is a moment of great risk: not necessarily for the 
future of Facebook, but for consumers and internet users.

A remote possibility exists that regulations will be passed that are so onerous 
they would be impossible for Facebook to comply with. However, this seems 
unlikely. After all, it is in both government’s and Facebook’s interest to 
agree on a set of workable regulations. Which, in this context, means 
controllable by government and exploitable for Facebook.

On the whole, we are terribly naïve in our use of the modern communications and 
technology. The old saying “if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the 
product” has more than a bit of truth to it, but at a more fundamental level it 
probably never occurred to most people to wonder why so much privacy had to be 
surrendered to access digital society.

In some ways, the whole point of the ‘product’ is an escape from anonymity. 
Abandoning privacy is simply the price of admission.

The internet is an odd mix of quaint collectivism and nihilistic individualism. 
It is viewed simultaneously as a lawless wasteland of scammers and conmen and 
an endless bounty that is expected to give to each according to his needs, free 
of charge.

It is easy to imagine someone thinking, without a hint of irony, both that “of 
course Facebook is free, that’s how things are online” and “of course scammers 
stole our data, you can’t trust anyone online.”

The point is not that Facebook is good or bad: it is simply a business. It is 
selling a new product to be sure, but it is operating in accordance with the 
same incentives and pitfalls that have driven markets for millennia.

But governments too are driven by incentives. Government wants to be able to 
control how companies such as Facebook operate, and they want to stop those 
companies undermining the tax revenue base.

One way to do this is through regulation: imposing a compliance burden for the 
‘social license’ to operate a business. The effect of this is to restrict 
competition, so it creates a bunch of monopolies or near-monopolies (think 
pharmacies and taxis).

In many ways, it’s much easier for governments to deal with monopoly providers: 
they have all the justification they need to continually intervene in the 
market, and they have the ability to tax the monopoly rents generated. The 
companies sure like it … they get monopolistic profits. It’s the consumers who 
lose out.

Technology has the ability to undermine these monopolies, which is why the 
battle over regulation of ride-sharing services like Uber is so important. The 
great risk to consumers is not that unregulated services like Uber are 
inherently unsafe, it’s that government will effectively entrench a model in 
law with an inbuilt cut for government, existing providers and unions.

So too with Facebook. Imposing a substantial compliance burden on social media 
companies to protect data and prevent abuse creates a barrier for new entrants. 
Suddenly Facebook not only has the advantage of incumbency, it also has the 
capital, infrastructure and staff to police their content where newcomers don’t.

How then should we deal with breaches of privacy? Or the very real issue of 
abuse of women online, not to mention the much less real problem of fake news?

The correct, but unsatisfying, answer is simple: if you don’t like how Facebook 
protects your data don’t use it. If people have the ability to regularly abuse 
you on social media, and the company running that platforms doesn’t respond, 
find one that does. If those platforms try to manipulate your feed, log off. 
One individual may not think they matter much, but if enough people do this it 
will be far more effective than government could ever be.

Businesses have an incentive to work around regulations, but they also have an 
incentive to work with customers.

However tempting is it to reach for comforting, old levers of control to deal 
with technology, this risks surrendering far more than the utopian vision of 
the internet. It surrenders the greatest power that consumers have — the 
ability to move their business elsewhere — in exchange for not having to 
protect yourself from harm. For consumers, that is a really bad deal.

Simon Cowan is Research Manager at the Centre for Independent Studies.


Rajneesh N. Shetty

--------------------------------------------
On Sun, 15/4/18, Ingo Schwarze <schwa...@openbsd.org> wrote:

 Subject: CVS: cvs.openbsd.org: src
 To: source-changes@openbsd.org
 Received: Sunday, 15 April, 2018, 9:43 AM
 
 CVSROOT:    /cvs
 Module name:    src
 Changes by:    schwa...@cvs.openbsd.org   
 2018/04/14 19:43:45
 
 Modified files:
     lib/libcrypto/man:
 Makefile engine.3 
 Added files:
     lib/libcrypto/man:
 ENGINE_add.3 ENGINE_ctrl.3 
          
             
 ENGINE_get_default_RSA.3 ENGINE_init.3 
          
             
 ENGINE_register_RSA.3 
          
             
 ENGINE_register_all_RSA.3 
          
             
 ENGINE_set_default.3 ENGINE_unregister_RSA.3 
 
 Log message:
 Rewrite the ENGINE_*(3) documentation
 from scratch (step 1,
 covering 60% of the documented
 functions).  The old, abominable
 engine(3) manual page shall die soon.
 
 

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