With the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) failing to pass Congress this past week, it is just the latest internet privacy bill to be thrown into the trash. Technology companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have invested millions of dollars into lobbying Congress to make sure their companies are not regulated and are able to build products without having to deal with any red tape.
Despite the successful advertisement campaigns run by Facebook and Google, ensuring that they are cool and hip, the fact remains they are working to protect their brand just like any other company. But there are real reasons why the internet needs to be regulated in order to ensure the millions of people who use it for their personal and business lives are protected.
1) Online Credit
Forget about sending a check in the mail to pay the rent, insurance, or even using cash. Technology companies are making it easier to use a card or online banking wherever you go. That means more people will have information relating to your finances. Technology companies building these products are not banks who have government bureaus setting rules and regulations on what they can and cannot do, but will still have sensitive information that can be stolen and ruin your credit.
It is important to note that just because they have this information does not mean they are going to give it out. In fact, they most likely would not as it would be bad for business. That being said, there are laws forbidding banks from giving it out anyway for those instances where it does, and it doesn’t seem to interfere with them making billion’s of dollars each year.
It also seems to make sense that technology companies should be obligated to have the latest security software to protect the financial information people must give to them.
2) Big Brother’s Watching
It is not just about the products themselves but the way they develop them. Facebook, Google, and Twitter, all put out new ways for people to share information, while at the same time they track the way people are using them. The most controversial instance was when the story broke about how people who had an iPad or Android device were essentially being followed, using the GPS inside the equipment. The reason for the companies doing this made perfect sense, they needed to know how people were using their product so they can improve it and make it more popular so others would use it as well.
Of course, no one knew they were being followed and technology companies saw no reason to tell them. As far as they were concerned, with as many people using their technology as it was, it was best for the consumers that they do this. While no one is being followed around anymore, maps are still a popular feature on Apple and Google products, Four Square and other “check in” applications are becoming more popular with people and restaurants/bars who offer deals using them, and cameras are being placed on all the new gadgets people are buying. Without any rules forbidding these practices from taking place, there will still be plenty of ways for companies to track what an individual’s habits are, whether you like it or not.
3) Business Is Business
Microsoft and Google already fight over patents and sue each other over any antitrust legalize their lawyers can think of; which means it is only a matter of time before there is a lawsuit over one company using a tech companies products.
It seems more and more likely that cloud computing will be an important part of how people do business. There is technology that allows people to record the call they are on, share documents that make it more efficient to work with multiple people in the office, and even talk to people across the world. Right now, non-profits can use most of these products for free or at very little cost. But what happens when a for-profit company, that had to pay a tech company to use its product, makes something that is worth a lot of money?
Many of the lawsuits we see today are hit or miss shots taken by lawyers who have nothing to lose. But what if, for example, a cure for the common cold is created by a pharmaceutical company using Google documents? Should Google have a right to the patent because the scientists combined their efforts using a Google product they paid for? This scenario may not happen in the near future but as the internet continues to become a common use for the way businesses operate, it is likely that one day it will.
That means other companies outside of Silicon Valley will be lobbying against Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, so they can protect their products as well. One fight has already taken place with the film industry when their lobbyists could not push a bill through Congress that would have protected films from being stolen overseas.
With bills like CISPA being put aside, millions of people, small businesses, and future entrepreneurs, will not get the protection they need to go about their everyday lives, without worrying about someone stealing their credit information, something they created, or someone tracking their habits. We know no law is perfect, but there are common sense regulations that can be implemented that will make life easier for individuals and companies alike.