Corporate Liberalism at Microsoft
At Microsoft, we know that advances in technology bring enormous social and economic benefits - but only if people believe they can trust that technology. For example, recent surveys suggest that privacy concerns have caused some consumers to retreat from using the Internet for e-commerce.
We have been working to strengthen computer security on many fronts and to provide greater privacy protection through innovations such as our advanced spam filters, the Windows AntiSpyware tool, and our Phishing Filter. We have also been collaborating with government to bring anti-spam and anti-spyware enforcement lawsuits, and working with industry to develop privacy standards, strengthen self-regulation, and educate consumers.
As part of this comprehensive approach, we believe the United States now needs a broad, nationwide privacy law. Microsoft's general counsel Brad Smith recently asked Congress to consider privacy legislation that would set a uniform standard for the collection, storage and use of personal information. He urged lawmakers to mandate greater transparency in the handling of personal data, give consumers more meaningful control over it, and require organizations to take steps to secure and protect it.
Congress has enacted privacy laws for specific industries, such as financial services and healthcare, and has included privacy provisions in laws on spam, telemarketing, and other issues. Since 2004, more than 20 states have passed financial privacy laws. Although such targeted laws are helpful in some cases, they create an increasingly complex patchwork of inconsistent rules that raise the costs of compliance, and they leave many gaps in privacy protection.
A strong federal law - developed in consultation with the states and with industry - would help assure consumers that legitimate organizations in every state and every industry are abiding by the same baseline privacy standard. This standard should apply to data collection electronically or on paper, because the risks to consumers are the same, regardless. To encourage interstate and global commerce, federal legislation should preempt state laws and harmonize as much as possible with the laws of other countries.
Here's what Joel had to say about it:
Now, why would the archetypal mega-corporation call for more and larger-scale corporate regulation?....
Hmmmm, well it so happens that this is at a time that Microsoft is facing increasing competition on key products due to its poor track record on security -- eg with the "new browser wars" where alternative browsers like Firefox (which recently passed 100 million downloads) and Opera are taking away market share from Microsoft's Internet Explorer, the first time this has happened since the original "browser wars" in the late 1990s, due to IE's poor security. Clearly, establishing a baseline of security adequate enough to reassure jittery consumers would decrease demand for competing products that perform above that baseline (and would make a higher standard the de facto baseline via competition). Also, it wouldn't hurt to move the costs of providing security onto the government.
And here's what I wrote about regulatory cartelization in Chapter Six of Studies in Mutualist Political Economy:
Any action by the state to impose a uniform standard of quality..., across the board, necessarily eliminates [it] as a competitive issue between firms. Thus, the industry is partially cartelized, to the very same extent that would have happened had all the firms in it adopted a uniform level of quality standards, and agreed to stop competing in that area. A regulation, in essence, is a state-enforced cartel in which the members agree to cease competing in a particular area of quality or safety, and instead agree on a uniform standard. And unlike non-state-enforced cartels, which are unstable, no member can seek an advantage by defecting.
regulation , monopolies , monopoly , microsoft