Feeds

Yahoo! founder urges govt to keep hands off the Net

"We don't know what we don't know"

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang came out firmly, but affably, against government regulation of the Internet in a speech he delivered during a National Press Club luncheon in Washington this week. "We advocate a very strong, hands-off policy towards the Internet by the government," he said, and then gave a simple, rational argument in favour of his position. "We don't know what we don't know....so we don't want to go down any one-way roads that we can't back out of," he said. With this he received a warm response from the Washington press corps, a jaded tribe who toil, with little appreciation, deep in the galleys of a vast political machine which delights in nothing so much as regulating the behaviour, and the pleasures, of citizens. So it was with some refreshment that we listened to a calm voice in a town where carnival stunts, grotesque overstatements and hysterical warnings are generally understood as the minimal prerequisites to making one's views known to one's beloved political representatives. "The Internet is not getting any simpler; it's getting more complicated," he warned. "Policy questions are getting more complicated and more legal than ever. Now you have economic issues, technical issues, trade issues, all bundled up in any of the discussions." The subtext, of course, is that government regulators and political actors, known more for their bureaucratic acumen and rhetorical genius than their deep grasp of the issues upon which they pass judgment, are in over their depth. "Existing laws have done a tremendous job in making sure that the existing world works. Many of the things that we do on the Internet are extensions of what we do in the real world, and we really ought to look at existing laws....rather than invent new ones," Yang said. Certainly on-line privacy is an area where Washington is eager to intervene. The man in the street is uneasy with market-driven solutions, as the recent DoubleClick fiasco demonstrates; and such widespread public disillusionment won't be lost on any politician interested in re-election. Yet privacy can be a competitive tool in a market-driven world, making it possible for the better class of Web site to differentiate itself, Yang believes. Fundamental to maintaining long-term consumer loyalty is "our users' trust in our ability to protect their privacy," he says. And he makes a decent case. "One of the dangers of regulating [privacy] is that you would fix what privacy is at this moment in time, where I honestly believe that all the behavioural aspects of what we do on the Internet are far from being fixed, and any [premature] regulation would endanger the growth of the Internet," he said. And that's fine as far as the more enlightened Web operators are concerned, but it doesn't address the millions of users potentially abused by the plethora of rapacious on-line hucksters for whom a quick score is the chief business motive. While we're charmed by privacy-conscious dot-coms like Yahoo! and AOL, and admire their enlightened response to market forces which they believe guide them inevitably towards privacy protection, we see US government regulation, at least in the realm of consumer privacy, as inevitable, because those same market forces accommodate the bottom-feeders every bit as well as they do the more idealistic operators. ® Related Coverage Yahoo! named in FTC privacy investigation DoubleClick stands tall for on-line privacy rights Wall Street clobbers DoubleClick on news of FTC interest DoubleClick throws in the towel on profiling

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Banking apps: Handy, can grab all your money... and RIDDLED with coding flaws
Yep, that one place you'd hoped you wouldn't find 'em
TROLL SLAYER Google grabs $1.3 MEEELLION in patent counter-suit
Chocolate Factory hits back at firm for suing customers
Kaspersky backpedals on 'done nothing wrong, nothing to fear' blather
Founder (and internet passport fan) now says privacy is precious
Primetime precrime? Minority Report TV series 'being developed'
I have to know. I have to find out what happened to my life
Ex-IBM CEO John Akers dies at 79
An era disrupted by the advent of the PC
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.