Who will be next for Government Regulation? Google, Facebook or Apple

One side affect of the Microsoft anti-trust action is the governments of world feel good about taking on technology companies with regulation.  You go throughout history and technologies at first were not regulated - auto mfg, power generation, oil & gas, and healthcare.  And, there is still people arguing there needs to be more legislation in these areas.

Microsoft fought the battle with the DOJ and EU and besides paying lots of money, is government regulated.  SEC has a degree on financial regulation, but doesn't touch on the latest issues with Google, Apple, and Facebook.

You look in the news at Google's Wifi.

Privacy group to go to police over Google Wi-Fi data collection

Privacy International likens mistake to tapping phone without consent

By Carrie-ann Skinner, PC Advisor UK
June 10, 2010 11:26 AM ET

Privacy International has revealed it will approach the Police regarding Google's recent admission it had mistakenly collected data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks for the past three years.

The search enginer's error came to light after the German data protection authority audited the Wi-Fi data collected by Street View cars for use in location-based products such as Google Maps for mobile.

Apple's ad policy.

Earlier today we reported that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) had amended itsiPhone Developer Agreement, specifically clause 3.3.9 related to advertising networks. The amendment was written in such a way that it allowed Steve Jobs to make good on a promise he made at D8 to open up the SDK for third parties to collect data for services such as advertising. But at the same time it was worded very carefully so as to exclude Google’s AdMob mobile advertising network from the iPhone eco-system.

This was met yesterday with lots of grumbling from Google, and gnashing of teeth from Admob’s CEO. Whilst the wording of the clause excludes any rival smart phone maker, Google is the only real threat on the horizon that Apple probably cares about right now.

And bloggers like danah boyd make the point on Facebook being a utility, and utilities get regulated as they are monopolies.  Being a Microsoft employee she knows what is like to be a monopoly.

Facebook is a utility; utilities get regulated

From day one, Mark Zuckerberg wanted Facebook to become a social utility. He succeeded. Facebook is now a utility for many. The problem with utilities is that they get regulated.

Yesterday, I ranted about Facebook and “radical transparency.” Lots of people wrote to thank me for saying what I said. And so I looked many of them up. Most were on Facebook. I wrote back to some, asking why they were still on Facebook if they disagreed with where the company was going. The narrative was consistent: they felt as though the needed to be there. For work, for personal reasons, because they got to connect with someone there that they couldn’t connect with elsewhere. Nancy Baym did a phenomenal job of explaining this dynamic in her post on Thursday: “Why, despite myself, I am not leaving Facebook. Yet.”

danah goes on, and makes points about society, utilities and choice.

I hate all of the utilities in my life. Venomous hatred. And because they’re monopolies, they feel no need to make me appreciate them. Cuz they know that I’m not going to give up water, power, sewage, or the Internet out of spite. Nor will most people give up Facebook, regardless of how much they grow to hate them.

Your gut reaction might be to tell me that Facebook is not a utility. You’re wrong. People’s language reflects that people are depending on Facebook just like they depended on the Internet a decade ago. Facebook may not be at the scale of the Internet (or the Internet at the scale of electricity), but that doesn’t mean that it’s not angling to be a utility or quickly becoming one. Don’t forget: we spent how many years being told that the Internet wasn’t a utility, wasn’t a necessity… now we’re spending what kind of money trying to get universal broadband out there without pissing off the monopolistic beasts because we like to pretend that choice and utility can sit easily together. And because we’re afraid to regulate.

And here’s where we get to the meat of why Facebook being a utility matters. Utilities get regulated. Less in the United States than in any other part of the world. Here, we like to pretend that capitalism works with utilities. We like to “de-regulate” utilities to create “choice” while continuing to threaten regulation when the companies appear too monopolistic. It’s the American Nightmare. But generally speaking, it works, and we survive without our choices and without that much regulation. We can argue about whether or not regulation makes things cheaper or more expensive, but we can’t argue about whether or not regulators are involved with utilities: they are always watching them because they matter to the people.

The political win to regulate Google, Apple, or Facebook is huge.  You can argue whether it is right or not, but the fact is a group of  politicians see regulating one of the companies as a career milestone that will set them for life, and allow them to break into private industry making more money or guaranteeing them more influence.