Who will guard the guards?

Photo by rooReynolds

News: Web privacy rules turn poachers into gamekeepers
Views: The EU is demanding that users opt in to tracking, while the U.S. Congress seems to want people to have a relatively standard way to opt out. Either way, it’s the companies that rely on tracking who will develop the technology, and therefore understand how to work around it so they can continue providing their services. If they can’t, and if people generally block tracking, the revenue from selling their eyeballs will diminish, and so will the services they want — or they’ll have to start paying directly. Lots of issues at play between now & June, it seems.

However it plays out, a larger pattern seems to be the ascendance of regulatory roles by private organizations. The EU bureaucrats are issuing the mandate, and presumably they’d also evaluate any technical solution proposed by industry. The consortium still takes on a larger role, and the only one with the hands on the actual switches. Its members also are in the position of brokering government mandates from different jurisdictions, and doubt is not high about whose interests will most powerfully drive their actions. They continue to frame their role as protecting their customers’ access to free services, but that tissue of rhetoric is too thin and too far stretched to provide any coverage at all for the primary financial motives in play.

But maybe a prior question is whether internetters themselves want to opt out. The bureaucrats might be embarrassed if they go to all the trouble of forcing the technical changes, and the reconfiguration of the industry driven by them, only to have users greet the news with a yawn and ignore the whole kerfluffle while they continue to Facebook along, oblivious to the man behind the curtain.