Privacy, Profit, and Tech Regulation

Every country is going to regulate tech —and they’re not going to do it in the same way the US is; nor do they necessarily care what the US does. The EU is well down this path, as I’ve written before. A lot of that regulation is about protecting user privacy. Apple announced a bunch of changes back at their World Wide Developer Conference, that basically put a stake through the heart of advertisers, by enabling much more privacy. Last week, a group of French advertisers filed a complaint alleging, “Apple is imposing unfair trading conditions on app developers and leveraging its dominant position in the app space to distort competition in the app advertising market.” This might well be true. But Apple responded that they’re actually supporting the EU regulations. Probably also true. Bottom line? Tech regulation is hard, and these sorts of fights are going to be happening for years to come. Meanwhile…

The EU is trying to kill privacy

It’s really exhausting, the frequency with which one needs to point out attempts by governments to destroy your privacy; and it’s particularly frustrating to have to do it for the EU, which is generally one of the strongest governmental advocates of the right to privacy. Nevertheless, here we are. A draft EU resolution was leaked to Austrian TV network, ORF, which, to paraphrase, says “the EU believes in strong encryption … and we need a backdoor for law enforcement”. This is, of course, nonsense. If the resolution passes, it would kill end-to-end encryption for communication programs like WhatsApp and Signal, and would be a serious blow against privacy. Of course, the EU isn’t the only one trying to do this. As the article points out, the language of the resolution closely mirrors language used by the Five Eyes (the anglo surveillance alliance between the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) last month. All of this stuff is international. You can ban an app in a certain jurisdiction, but you can’t create local backdoors. If you’re an Australian, do you want the government of Cyprus reading your text messages? Or if you’re German, do you want the US reading yours? Either you have strong encryption or you don’t. This stuff will continue to arise — it’s in the nature of politicians to want it. It’s up to you to continually push back on your local government.

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