Throwing the WRONG kitchen sink at Big Tech


“If they make you ask the wrong questions, answers don’t matter”.

Throwing the WRONG kitchen sink at Big Tech /img/throw-kitchen-sink.jpg

Rumor has it that the US Congress is going to “Throw The Kitchen Sink At Big Tech”. Too bad that, at least in part, it’s the wrong sink, in the wrong direction.

It seems that if five draft bills become law, it will be bad news for the tech giants.

WOW! Or not?

Bill number 3, temporarily titled “Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching Act of 2021. A.K.A. ACCESS Act of 2021”, focuses on data portability.

Here is the “wrong kitchen sink” part:

“A covered platform shall maintain a set of transparent, third-party-accessible interfaces (including application programming interfaces) to initiate the secure transfer of data to a user, or with the affirmative consent of a user, to a competing business or a potential competing business at the direction of a user, in a structured, commonly used, and machine-readable format.”

Another commentary about the same bill already addresses, but only partially why that approach is highly uneffective:

“this doesn’t address the most important [issue]: If I want to compete with Instagram, I don’t just need your photos - I need your entire social graph and all your friends activity… and that’s not addressed here at all”.

What is really missing from the “ACCESS Act of 2021”

First, a general critique: all the bills and the comment mentioned above seem to share the same “meta-limit”. They only see and discuss competition and consumers, not people, and THEIR rights. This said, a bill to ““Augment Compatibility and Competition” in communications should enable interoperability, not mere “Service Switching”.

If the scope of the ACCESS Act is all in the quote above, it is useless, and all you need to see why is to apply the quote above to phones:

“A covered platform shall maintain a set of transparent, third-party-accessible interfaces to initiate the secure transfer of data… to a competing business…”

All this gives consumers is the right to move their address books from one smartphone to another one of a different brand. Which is a totally useless right if those two phones cannot directly call each other.

Nobody would buy, or dare sell, phones that cannot call any other phone. But the impossibility to “directly call each other” is exactly what happens between, say, Instagram and Telegram accounts, and an “ACCESS” Act that does not makes such impossibility illegal is useless. Until we do not get this reality, no progress will happen.

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