February 25, 2012

Fights over electronic technologies: consumers vs. producers

This morning the New York Times online's technology section looks like a war zone. Most of the articles, both produced by the NYT and aggregated by their affiliated blogs, focused on conflicts over technology, either between consumers and producers, the government and producers or producers vs. each other.

Last year I co-wrote a technology assessment about credit cards, writing that the three biggest tradeoffs at the consumer frontier of electronic information are privacy, security, and efficiency. To differentiate between privacy and security, privacy is the idea that your electronic identity is not shared with third parties, whereas security is the idea that the transaction will not be compromised (why you trust Amazon.com more than a shady website with graphics from the 1990s). You can read some of project partner and my musings about credit cards here.

As electronic technologies advance, the trade-offs between these three concepts cause friction that can lead to lawsuits or federal regulation. So let's take a look at the headlines related to privacy, security, and efficiency of electronic technologies:
Someone over at "Federated Media Signal" had the same idea last week, and compiled a more comprehensive list of the how the rapid changes in technology produce both new opportunities and disputes. Because producers have an incentive to make money (despite Google's "Don't be evil" slogan), there are negative externalities in terms of consumer privacy and sometimes security, which is when the government should step in.

In addition to the half-dozen headlines related to battles over consumer privacy, security, and efficiency, there are the disputes between companies over intellectual property, copyrights, and trademarks.
So... maybe I should drop out of grad school and become a patent lawyer?

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