Category Archives: Privacy

Updates to the Media Page

We’ve added over a dozen new posts to the Media page, covering some of the highlights in articles and press coverage for April and May, 2012.

Topics include privacy, security, copyright, net neutrality, spectrum policy, the continued fall of Best Buy and antitrust.

The new posts include links to Larry’s inaugural writing for several publications, including Techdirt, Fierce Mobile IT, and Engine Advocacy.

There are also several new video clips, including Larry’s interview of Andrew Keen, author of the provocative new book, “Digital Vertigo,” which took place at the Privacy Identity and Innovation conference in Seattle.

June was just as busy as the rest of the year, and we hope to catch up with the links soon.

Updates to the Media Page

2012 is off to a fast start, and we’re trying hard just to keep up. We’ve already added over thirty posts to the Media Page, including articles, radio and television interviews, and quotes in a wide range of online and offline publications. There are several video and audio clips for your enjoyment.

The year began with two big stories: the successful fight to halt efforts for quick passage of SOPA and PIPA, two bills that would have added dangerous new legal remedies for government and private parties to tinker with the underlying engineering of the Internet in a fool-hardy effort to curb unlicensed copying by consumers. Larry was front and center, making several trips to Washington to speak with Members of Congress urging them to reconsider the bills, and reported as well from the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where the tide turned definitively against the bills.  Larry’s work, including a controversial article for Forbes on “Who Really Stopped SOPA, and Why,” was cited in publications as varied as The National Review, Aljazeera, The National Post, TechCrunch, Techdirt, AdWeek and a radio interview on WHYY’s “Radio Times.”

The second big story was Larry’s barn-burning article for Forbes on the failure of electronics retailer Best Buy to adapt to changing market and technology dynamics.  The original article how has nearly 3,000,000 pageviews, and set off a firestorm of response both positive and negative. The article spawned several follow-up pieces on Forbes, as well as extensive coverage nearly everywhere else, including  The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, TechCrunch, Slashdot, MetaFilter, Reddit, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool, MSN Money and CNN. Some of these articles generated thousands of user comments, in addition to over a thousand that appeared on Forbes.

With the SOPA and PIPA fights temporarily on hold, Larry pivoted back to other important innovation and policy matters, including reform of the FCC’s troubled Lifeline program, Internet privacy,  and a fight over future spectrum auctions vital to the future of mobile broadband.  Look for articles in CNET and Forbes as well as interviews in U.S. News, This Week in Law, The Los Angeles Times, The Hill, WebProNews and the Heartland Institute.

Stayed tuned!  It’s going to be an exciting year.

How the SOPA Fight Was Won…For Now

On Forbes yesterday, I posted a detailed analysis of the successful (so far) fight to block quick passage of the Protect-IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). (See “Who Really Stopped SOPA, and Why?“) I’m delighted that the article, despite its length, has gotten such positive response.

As regular readers know, I’ve been following these bills closely from the beginning, and made several trips to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to think more carefully about some of the more half-baked provisions.

But beyond traditional advocacy–of which there was a great deal–something remarkable happened in the last several months. A new, self-organizing protest movement emerged on the Internet, using social news and social networking tools including Reddit, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter to stage virtual teach-ins, sit-ins, boycotts, and other protests. Continue reading

Updates to the Media Page


We’ve recently added over two dozen new posts to the Media page. Most have to do with SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, introduced a few weeks ago in Congress to cheers from the entertainment industry and jeers from Silicon Valley. The bill would make it easier–too easy–for copyright and trademark holders to turn on and off Web content they don’t like.

Larry’s early analysis of the bill for CNET, and his on-going work on the poor relations between Hollywood and Palo Alto, led to a great deal of press coverage and speaking engagements. His detailed review of the bill was praised across the political spectrum, including by TechDirt’s Mike Masnick and the National Review’s Reihan Salam.

Larry participated in a Capitol Hill debate on SOPA and other pending piracy legislation sponsored by the Congressional Internet Caucus, debating the bill against industry representatives. He also appeared on CNET’s Reporters’ Roundtable and This Week in Law, as well as podcasts by the Heartland Institute.

Net neutrality also stayed in the news, as did the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, privacy, spectrum reform and online human rights. Larry was quoted in a wide range of publications on these topics, including Politico, Reason, NPR’s Marketplace, the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Caller.  Conference footage from this year’s Compass Summit panels on privacy and tech policy are also available.

Updates to the Media Page

We’ve added about a dozen new posts to the Media Page on my website, reflecting a sampling of articles, media quotes, and radio appearances from the last few months. These include several pieces for CNET and Forbes, as well as links to appearances on NPR’s “Science Friday” (debating Sen. Al Franken on privacy law) and “Marketplace.”

I continue to be called on to help business leaders understand the confusing and dangerous new interest that national, state and local governments are taking in the “management” of the digital economy. I’ve been speaking most recently about Apple’s iPhone privacy flap (which turned out to have nothing to do with privacy), the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, and pending legislation in Congress aimed at curbing online piracy of movies and trademarked goods, the so-called “Protect IP” Act.

Next week, I’ll be making my tenth visit this year to Washington to meet with Congressional staffers and other policy makers to discuss these and other worrisome developments. Increasingly, my role seems to be as an unofficial representative of Silicon Valley helping regulators see the potential damage to innovation from ill-considered laws.

Of course I continue my long-standing work with companies working to introduce new products and services that exploit digital technology. The introduction of “killer apps” only gets faster with time, and more than ten years since the publication of my first book, I’m deeply flattered to hear from entrepreneurs who tell me the book still works as a manual for success in the digital age.

The iPhone flap and the anatomy of a privacy panic

I’ve written a long article this morning for CNET (See “Privacy panic debate:  Whose data is it?”) on the discovery of the iPhone location tracking file and the utterly predictable panic response that followed.  Its life-cycle follows precisely the crisis model Adam Thierer has so frequently and eloquently traced, most recently at the Technology Liberation Front.

In particular, the CNET article takes a close and serious look at Richard Thaler’s column in Saturday’s New York Times, “Show us the data.  (It’s ours, after all.)” Thaler uses the iPhone scare as occassion to propose a regulatory fix to the “problem” of users being unable to access in “computer-friendly form” copies of the information “collected on” them by merchants. 

That information, Thaler assumes, is a discreet kind of property and must, since it refers to customer behavior, be the sole property of the customer, “lent” to the merchant and reclaimable at any time.

Information can certainly be treated as if it were property, and often is under law.  Personally, I don’t find the property metaphor to be the most useful in dealing with intangibles, but if you’re going to go there you need to understand the economics of how information behaves in ways very different to physical property.  (See my chapter on the subject in “The Next Digital Decade.”)

Thaler’s “proposed rule” is wrong on the facts (he doesn’t seem to know how cell phone bills really look, and he certainly doesn’t understand how supermarket club cards operate–and these are his leading examples of the “problem”), wrong on the law, and even wrong on the business and economics.  (Other than that, it’s a pretty good article!)

This kind of intellectual frivolity is par for the course with many academic economists.  Thaler is at the University of Chicago’s business school, and describes himself as an economist and behavioral scientist.  That means instead of throwing around calculus all day, he devises toy experiments with a few subjects–or reads the findings of other behavioral scientists who have done the same.

Not only is the article bad privacy policy, it’s bad economics.  The latter is certainly the more serious concern.  Nearly 70 years after Ronald Coase called on economists to put down the pencil and paper methods and do actual empirical research in how markets actually work, the profession has if anything become more insular.  There are exceptions, of course, but they stand out in a field of mediocrity.

Which is too bad.  We need good economists now, more than ever.