During the last few months we have seen several security breaches into large companies’ online networks. Does this call for more regulation for internet companies? During the eG8 Forum in Paris last month, internet leaders and government regulators had the opportunity to exchange ideas concerning the future of the internet and whether it should be further regulated. The main discussion point is the boundaryless freedom enjoyed by internet companies and the huge amount of customer info captured in their databases that include both personal and financial details.
On the one side we have European telecom companies such as Vodafone and several national government bodies, arguing that there is too much at stake and that therefore trust, privacy and copyrights have to be guaranteed. Also from a fair practice viewpoint, telecom giants urge for regulation; why should internet companies be excluded from regulation when companies in all other industries aren’t?
Meanwhile the other side, including companies such as Google and Facebook, argue that innovation should be maintained. A McKinsey study revealed that the internet contributed during the last 5 years 21% of growth in mature economies. By imposing regulation on internet companies, they claim, this growth will level off. Furthermore, they argue, self-governing processes are present in many internet companies, such as eBay and Amazon.
Is there a middle ground between trust and innovation? Is it possible to implement a set of laws which prevents data misuse and enforces consumer rights, but at the same time allows for the internet industry to realize its full potential within a legal framework? Next to this, regulation often lags behind innovation. Basel III, for example, is a set of laws responding to those invented financial products which have caused the financial crisis of 2008. Should we be proactive or reactive when dealing with the new possibilities of the internet?