From search-engine to walled garden: majority of Google searches do not result in a click

As tech began to concentrate, two dominant strategies emerged: Google's (instrument the whole internet for surveillance, which means that you don't have to lock people in in order to spy on them) and Apple's (lock everyone into a walled garden, and extract revenue by refusing to let them out again). Read the rest

Podcast: A cycle of renewal, broken: How Big Tech and Big Media abuse copyright law to slay competition

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my essay "A Cycle of Renewal, Broken: How Big Tech and Big Media Abuse Copyright Law to Slay Competition", published today on EFF's Deeplinks; it's the latest in my ongoing series of case-studies of "adversarial interoperability," where new services unseated the dominant companies by finding ways to plug into existing products against those products' manufacturers. This week's installment recounts the history of cable TV, and explains how the legal system in place when cable was born was subsequently extinguished (with the help of the cable companies who benefitted from it!) meaning that no one can do to cable what cable once did to broadcasters. Read the rest

A cycle of renewal, broken: How Big Tech and Big Media abuse copyright law to slay competition

As long we've had electronic mass media, audiences and creators have benefited from periods of technological upheaval that force old gatekeepers to compete with brash newcomers with new ideas about what constitutes acceptable culture and art. Those newcomers eventually became gatekeepers themselves, who then faced their own crop of revolutionaries. But today, the cycle is broken: as media, telecoms, and tech have all grown concentrated, the markets have become winner-take-all clashes among titans who seek to dominate our culture, our discourse and our communications. Read the rest

Interoperability and Privacy: Squaring the Circle

Last summer, we published a comprehensive look at the ways that Facebook could and should open up its data so that users could control their experience on the service, and to make it easier for competing services to thrive. Read the rest

Podcast: Interoperability and Privacy: Squaring the Circle

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my essay "Interoperability and Privacy: Squaring the Circle, published today on EFF's Deeplinks; it's another in the series of "adversarial interoperability" explainers, this one focused on how privacy and adversarial interoperability relate to each other. Read the rest

Your phone is a crimewave in your pocket, and it's all the fault of greedy carriers and complicit regulators

Insider attacks, cell-site simulators, SIM-swap attacks, thriving markets in super-cheap, fine-grained location data, robocalls, fictitious coverage maps, and more: does the fact that all this terrible shit keeps happening, and only gets worse, mean that mobile companies and the FCC just don't give a fuck if your mobile phone is a crime wave you carry around with you on your pocket? Read the rest

Big Pharma's origin: how the Chicago School and private equity shifted medicine's focus from health to wealth

Between 2010 and 2016, the FDA approved 210 new medicines and every single one was produced at public expense, part of a $1T US government investment project in medical research. Despite this massive public subsidy, the pharma industry has only grown more concentrated and rapacious, raising prices and diverting the profits to their execs and investors, who now pocket 99% of industry profits: the industry made $500B in profits between 2006 and 2015, and during that time, the US government pumped $33b/year into pharma research. Read the rest

Podcast: "IBM PC Compatible": how adversarial interoperability saved PCs from monopolization

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my essay "IBM PC Compatible": how adversarial interoperability saved PCs from monopolization, published today on EFF's Deeplinks; it's another installment in my series about "adversarial interoperability," and the role it has historically played in keeping tech open and competitive. This time, I relate the origin story of the "PC compatible" computer, with help from Tom Jennings (inventor of FidoNet!) who played a key role in the story. Read the rest

"IBM PC Compatible": how adversarial interoperability saved PCs from monopolization

Adversarial interoperability is what happens when someone makes a new product or service that works with a dominant product or service, against the wishes of the dominant business. Read the rest

Podcast: Adblocking: How About Nah?

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my essay Adblocking: How About Nah?, published last week on EFF's Deeplinks; it's the latest installment in my series about "adversarial interoperability," and the role it has historically played in keeping tech open and competitive, and how that role is changing now that yesterday's scrappy startups have become today's bloated incumbents, determined to prevent anyone from disrupting them they way they disrupted tech in their early days.

At the height of the pop-up wars, it seemed like there was no end in sight: the future of the Web would be one where humans adapted to pop-ups, then pop-ups found new, obnoxious ways to command humans' attention, which would wane, until pop-ups got even more obnoxious.

But that's not how it happened. Instead, browser vendors (beginning with Opera) started to ship on-by-default pop-up blockers. What's more, users—who hated pop-up ads—started to choose browsers that blocked pop-ups, marginalizing holdouts like Microsoft's Internet Explorer, until they, too, added pop-up blockers.

Chances are, those blockers are in your browser today. But here's a funny thing: if you turn them off, you won't see a million pop-up ads that have been lurking unseen for all these years.

Because once pop-up ads became invisible by default to an ever-larger swathe of Internet users, advertisers stopped demanding that publishers serve pop-up ads. The point of pop-ups was to get people's attention, but something that is never seen in the first place can't possibly do that.

MP3

Read the rest

Make the internet better by empowering users, not by demanding that platforms implement automated filters

In the wake of the Senate's predictably grandstanding "Protecting Digital Innocence" hearings (on how to keep kids from online harms), my EFF colleagues Elliot Harmon and India McKinney have posted an excellent, thoughtful rebuttal to proposals to segregate a "kid internet" from an "adult internet" in order to ensure that kids don't see "harmful" things. Read the rest

Share prices slide as DOJ announces sweeping antitrust investigations of Big Tech

Without naming any companies, the DOJ has announced that it will investigate Big Tech platforms that dominate "search, social media and retail services." Read the rest

Small but meaningful progress towards a federal Right to Repair rule

The Right to Repair movement has introduced dozens of state-level laws that would force companies to support independent repairs by making manuals, parts and diagnostic codes available, and by ending the illegal practice of voiding warranties for customers who use independent repair services, but these bills keep getting killed by overwhelming shows of lobbying force from members of the highly concentrated manufacturing sector, particularly Apple, whose CEO, Tim Cook, warned investors in January that the number one threat to Iphone sales is that customers are choosing to repair, rather than replace, their mobile devices. Read the rest

Podcast: Adversarial Interoperability is Judo for Network Effects

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my essay SAMBA versus SMB: Adversarial Interoperability is Judo for Network Effects, published last week on EFF's Deeplinks; it's a furhter exploration of the idea of "adversarial interoperability" and the role it has played in fighting monopolies and preserving competition, and how we could use it to restore competition today. Read the rest

Tim Wu rebuts Zuck's reasons for exempting Facebook from antitrust enforcement

Competition scholar and cyberlawyer Tim "Net Neutrality" Wu's (previously) latest book is The Curse of Bigness: a tight, beautifully argued case for restoring pre-Reagan antitrust approaches. Read the rest

Robert Reich backs Elizabeth Warren's plan to break up Big Tech

Robert Reich (previously) served in the presidential administrations of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton, was Clinton's labor czar, and sat on Obama's economic transition advisory board; though he is generally on the Democratic Party's left flank, his own history shows that he has credibility with the establishment wing of the party as well. Read the rest

Independent audit finds Facebook activity has fallen by 20% since Cambridge Analytica

The "business analytics" firm Mixpanel has released its figures estimating the total usage of Facebook (liking, sharing and posting) since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke; they showed usage falling off 10% in the first month following from the news of the scandal, and continuing to fall, with overall usage down by 20% since April 2018. Read the rest

More posts