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I actually think this would just make things worse.

If you were strip Google to just search and Facebook to just Facebook then they would have to more aggressively go after advertising dollars to ensure they are growing revenue. And since they would've already been broken up they would surely do this by invading privacy even more.

Surely the smarter move is to focus on heavily regulating their ability to track users. And make approaches like Apple did with WebKit mandatory.




They would still have business relationships with the other entities they were split from; they'd just be only business relationships, done in public and appearing on the balance sheets, and able to be regulated "between."

An example of the type of business relationship Warren probably wants to encourage: the way Google pays Mozilla to keep Google Search as Firefox's default search provider.

So, if Google were split up into Google-the-search-engine and Google-the-ad-agency, Google Search's main source of revenue would still be from ads—but it'd be via the separate company of Google Ads, paying Google Search for ad placement.


> Google Search's main source of revenue would still be from ads—but it'd be via the separate company of Google Ads, paying Google Search for ad placement.

This would almost certainly lead to less privacy. Google Search, instead of just sourcing ads from Google Ads would have to open bidding to a wide variety of ad networks.

That means your personal search history wouldn't just be accessed by Google, it would be publicly available to any upstart ad network that wanted to bid for Search ad placement.


Yes, by default. But opening that interface exposes that previously company-internal leak of information to the government-as-regulator to step in and clamp down on. If they say both that Google must not run its own ads but must rely on a third-party for ad placement, and that Google isn't allowed to show its search data to third-parties, then that has a meaningful impact on how Google operates as a business.


I don’t have as much faith in the system as you. And I wouldn’t want to wait a decade for it to be fixed.


I think personally Google gets a bad rap by a media industry jealous of their success, and that the majority of customers are sending their data to Google's servers for good services.

But, saying that breaking them up would only make them invade privacy more in your view, that's the view of someone in an abusive relationship. Whether or not Facebook and Google are violating your privacy rights should be a separate question that calls for other regulatory action, regardless of the entity's size. We need to have both conversations.

Disclaimer: I work as a lowly grunt for Google, but my opinions are my own and do not represent them.


> then they would have to more aggressively go after advertising dollars to ensure they are growing revenue

Aren't you assuming that they are not already giving it all they've got?


What about privacy regulation? Why is that not also feasible?


There are a lot of things that make that hard.

The first is how many industries are against it -- Google's not the half of it. Google would still make a mint if all they could do was show ads for car insurance when people search for car insurance and so on. But meaningful privacy regulation would effectively prohibit the likes of Equifax, and then you would get huge pushback from the finance industry and realtors.

Then there's the fact that a lot of politically powerful government surveillance agencies want all your stuff to be in The Cloud instead of on your own device where they can't read it, so they'd fight it too.

And the biggest problem is that you need the rules to be good rules that are at the same time effective without destroying small entities and entrenching the incumbents, which is really hard and there is a high probability they'll screw it up (especially with the aforementioned constraints), but doing it wrong can easily be worse than doing nothing. Then you don't get privacy but you destroy the upstart alternatives that might have made it possible for the people who most need it, or could have presented a challenge to the incumbents given more time.


Equifax may not be a great example here, since Congress already stomped on it explicitly because it was concerned about the privacy implications of digitizing the information they held. That fear led to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which substantially curtailed many of Equifax's most egregious business practices.


The Fair Credit Reporting Act was passed in 1970, and credit reporting agencies continue to collect personal data on everybody they can, without their consent, and provide it to just about anyone who pays them to.


Yep. The difference is in what they don't do anymore. Once upon a time they literally collected rumors and sold them, and took great pains to ensure that you couldn't see what information had been collected or sold about you or to whom. Those practices were curtailed by Congress; given that, it seems foolish to assert that current practices, hated as they are by the electorate, might not also be curtailed through legislative action.


> Those practices were curtailed by Congress; given that, it seems foolish to assert that current practices, hated as they are by the electorate, might not also be curtailed through legislative action.

The problem is you don't just need some law to be passed, it also has to be a good law, which is the really hard part.

And it's a lot easier for Equifax than tech because if Equifax would dry up and blow away it would only make the world better. Their entire business is doing the thing nobody should be doing at all. No part of what they do actually needs to be saved.

The problem with Google is that they also make a search engine. We need search engines and email providers and video hosts to continue to exist even if their funding source changes. So it's no help to pass a law that just makes them impossible, or makes it so that nobody can do it unless they're a multibillion dollar corporation. That makes it worse rather than better, because competition is the greatest practical method of thwarting corporate misbehavior. Laws alone can't do it -- see also pre-breakup AT&T, post-breakup AT&T and Comcast, various failed attempts at totalitarian communism, etc.

Especially if you make rules that cause the incumbents to get so big and entrenched that it becomes inevitable that they capture the regulators.

The best thing laws can do is to ensure that competition is thriving. But most of them in practice do the opposite.


So, I note you've gone from "it can't be done" to "it can't be done well". And yet, Equifax is unquestionably less abusive than it once was. It still exists and still makes money. It's clear that legislative action is both possible (contrary to your point in your first post) and survivable (which you imply isn't possible in the more recent post). The odds that regulatory action could be taken which left intact much of the good that Google does while curtailing its most egregious abuses seem correspondingly good to me.

Regarding competitive markets being the antidote to bad behavior, that's simply counterfactual. Examples from Uber to Boeing to Wells Fargo to Foxconn to Equifax itself prove that simply because you have strong, viable competitors does not mean that you have to treat anyone or anything well.

And the truth is that many markets are naturally winner-take-all. In the absence of regulatory releveling, there is no natural market force which prevents behemoths from emerging and creating the regulatory capture you fear. The conclusion to draw from that is that regulatory action must be taken before capture is possible, and therefore potentially before actual abuse. Such is the position we are broadly in with giants like Amazon.


> So, I note you've gone from "it can't be done" to "it can't be done well".

Can you find the quote that says "it can't be done" instead of saying it's really hard and there is a major risk that we screw it up and make it worse? Because I've been saying the same thing since the first post.

> And yet, Equifax is unquestionably less abusive than it once was.

That's debatable. It's only differently abusive. They collect different kinds of information now than in 1969, but they collect more of it now and sell it to more people, and have invested a lot more in ensuring regulatory capture. The legislative response to that data breach should have been that their industry would cease to exist, so the fact that it hasn't demonstrates that the relevant legislators are under their thumb.

> It's clear that legislative action is both possible (contrary to your point in your first post) and survivable (which you imply isn't possible in the more recent post).

You're still using Equifax as an example, which I've already explained the problem with -- they don't need to be saved so anything that hurts them is irrelevant and comes at no significant cost.

> The odds that regulatory action could be taken which left intact much of the good that Google does while curtailing its most egregious abuses seem correspondingly good to me.

How? So much of what they do is ML on large data sets. They use the same data for targeting ads, but they also actually need it to provide the service. How do you propose to make Waze operate without user location data? But regardless of the ads, the risk is then that they know too much and it could be compromised or used for more nefarious purposes in the future. It's inherently a trade off which will be more acceptable to some people than others, so what's needed isn't laws prohibiting what they're doing, it's more competitors who do something different for the people who prefer better privacy.

> Regarding competitive markets being the antidote to bad behavior, that's simply counterfactual. Examples from Uber to Boeing to Wells Fargo to Foxconn to Equifax itself prove that simply because you have strong, viable competitors does not mean that you have to treat anyone or anything well.

Why are you holding up uncompetitive industries as examples of strong competition? Boeing is the only major US commercial aircraft manufacturer and one of only two in the world. And all of your other examples, even the ones with limited competition, have done well for their customers. But you are not the customer of Equifax. You can't choose not to patronize their service, in the way that you can choose not to use Facebook or Gmail and block all of their tracking bugs with browser plugins. The problem is the limited competition, which comes from laws like DMCA 1201 and the CFAA which prohibit adversarial interoperability and lock customers into vertically integrated platforms.

> And the truth is that many markets are naturally winner-take-all.

Hardly any real markets are winner-take-all. Making them that way is the primary goal of regulatory capture, which is why enabling it by passing rules that destroy small competitors is so problematic. Even classic textbook examples like utility companies are only that way because of rules that favor large statewide entities with uniform rates and build out requirements that exist to implicitly subsidize rural areas at the expense of urban ones. There is no natural market force preventing a new ISP from forming at the scale of an individual neighborhood, it's only regulatory capture by the incumbents (or other political forces that have the same effect).

> Such is the position we are broadly in with giants like Amazon.

Amazon is the least monopolistic of all the tech companies. They have a single digit percentage of the US retail market, maintain their market share almost entirely through competitive pricing and compensate their employees as well or better than most of their competitors do. The people complaining about them aren't customers, they're sore loser competitors who don't like aggressive price competition.


One does not exclude the other. We can break up these companies and restrict what they are allowed to do in terms of tracking users. That would make it harder for them to misbehave and easier for governments to do something about it if they do.


Or they could just give stable dividends and stop growing which is honestly completely reasonable for a company that makes most of its money on super passive activities like google.

Google is growth oriented because it has so much money that it can experiment with things. Maybe that’s dumb?


No, that's completely impossible. Publicly-traded corporations in America simply can't operate that way these days, they have to be constantly growing or else they implode.


Hoping that companies won't explore every possible avenue for cash just because they have a lot is not a good plan. Google and FB are already aggressively going after advertising dollars.


It won't even get that far. This proposal will be watered down and will be implemented in such a way that Google, Facebook etc will be protected from any harm and this law will only serve to hamper new entrants and protect the incumbents position.

At this stage of the election cycle a few presidential elections ago Obama was promising socialized medicine if elected, what we got from a democratically controlled house and senate was Obamacare. This is what always happens.


Uhh, he never campaigned for a single payer model.


In what way is a "public option"[0] not socialised medicine?

> In the 2008 Obama-Biden health care plan on the campaign’s website, candidate Obama promised that “any American will have the opportunity to enroll in [a] new public plan.”

[0]https://thinkprogress.org/flashback-obama-repeatedly-touted-...


Correct! At least not when he was running for the presidency.

https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/jul...


People forget that his healthcare proposal as a candidate was to the right of Clinton's.




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