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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.




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