Interesting article by Dean Baker 's CEPR on lawsuits targeting the tech giants (or not, depending on political savvy).
Clearly, the emergence of the social media and search giants, and Amazon, raise serious challenges about the meaning of privacy, and of property itself, especially as regards "information" and ideas. Currently there is no way to guarantee the security of either on the Internet. And yet, information infrastructures have penetrated vast domains of human and social activity. Going online means your info is now in the possession, ff not yet technically 'owned', by owners of any network nodes or pipes through which the information was transported, including connected origin and destination. Recall the old law school maxim: Possession in 9/10 of the law.
The problems are obvious, and by no means new (although the scale keeps getting vaster). But the fix is not obvious. One difficulty is economic and the fundamental theory of what constitutes a commodity. Marx spent most of a volume of capital on this. Paul Samuelson (a century later) reduced it to a couple rules defining what was NOT a commodity, but instead a "public good". Knowledge is a perfect example of a (inherently) public good. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_good).
For information to be traded as a commodity in a marketplace requires tremendous and complex public (legal) protection, which is only marginally enforceable. Plus, information is a crappy, leaky store of value. Imagine you are a loan officer at a bank and Bill Gates approaches you for a loan, a big one. You ask, what collateral do you have. He puts a compact terabyte hard drive containing a 100 million lines of computer code for Microsoft Windows on your desk. Do you risk the banks money (belonging to other depositors) with that backing? Who else has the same kind of loaded device? or can create new ones at nearly zero cost? If the collateral is accepted, at what premium interest rate do you charge given the discounted value of the collateral? Compare that to land, real estate, a gold mine, etc.
Despite its inherent weakness as a commodity corporations have dived into it as if driven by necessity more than desire only to discover that their business models based on selling copyrighted software were not sustainable. They began transforming themselves into service companies, leaving the property rights associated with the information itself in limbo and clear as mud.
Then comes AI whose value raises accuracy and scope in prediction and automation by orders of magnitude, but which is powered by HUGE data stores. Those stores are being filled at massive rates as the Internet of Things added to the Internets of people and businesses and governments both profit and non profit expand and yield unimaginable concentrations of data. I doubt that breaking up these enterprises under antitrust law will work. I tend to favor changes in governance at the director level and the inclusion of both employee and public voices and access to private decision-making on issues that can result in immense and unsupportable public risks.
-- via my feedly newsfeed