“…is bad for the rule of law and for capitalism,” opines The Economist, saying regulation-through prosecution has become “an extortion racket,” from hundreds of millions in Google drug-ad settlement money spread among Rhode Island police departments, to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s muscling in to extract money from BNP Paribas in a settlement of legal offenses against U.S. foreign policy as distinct from New York consumers:
Who runs the world’s most lucrative shakedown operation? The Sicilian mafia? The People’s Liberation Army in China? The kleptocracy in the Kremlin? If you are a big business, all these are less grasping than America’s regulatory system. The formula is simple: find a large company that may (or may not) have done something wrong; threaten its managers with commercial ruin, preferably with criminal charges; force them to use their shareholders’ money to pay an enormous fine to drop the charges in a secret settlement (so nobody can check the details). Then repeat with another large company. …
Perhaps the most destructive part of it all is the secrecy and opacity. The public never finds out the full facts of the case, nor discovers which specific people—with souls and bodies—were to blame. Since the cases never go to court, precedent is not established, so it is unclear what exactly is illegal. That enables future shakedowns, but hurts the rule of law and imposes enormous costs.
“A court has ruled that a Hong Kong tycoon can sue Google over its autocomplete results suggesting he has links to organized crime.” [AP/Mashable]
“A top EU court has ruled Google must amend some search results at the request of ordinary people in a test of the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’. The European Union Court of Justice said links to ‘irrelevant’ and outdated data should be erased on request.” [BBC; Andrew Beaujon, Poynter; Hans Bader, CEI]
It’s being led by our perennial-favorite state-AG mentionee (D-Miss.)
Meanwhile: Houston judge reported to have issued what law professor Josh Blackman calls “blatantly unconstitutional” gag order requiring Google not only to remove all records of certain allegations against an individual, but also to refrain from discussing the gag order itself [Houston Chronicle]
Stewart Baker is running a year-end contest to name the most regrettable uses of privacy law over the past year. Among his nominations: the “Agriculture Department, which cited privacy grounds in refusing to name any of the beneficiaries of the notoriously fraud-ridden ‘Pigford‘ settlement”; Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who imposed millions of dollars in fines on private health companies for lacking adequate technical controls on the privacy of health data, “even when there was no evidence that any data had been compromised,” at the same time as her own department was launching healthcare.gov, a data intake site with much more critical privacy and safety flaws; racing mogul Max Mosley, who prevailed on a French court to order Google to de-index scandal coverage of Mosley’s recreational indiscretions; and federal judge Lucy Koh, for finding Gmail’s business model potentially violative of wiretap laws. All the examples above were winners in their categories, save Mosley who trailed behind two others in the category “Worst Use of Privacy Law to Protect Power and Privilege.”
Many loyal users (including me) were beyond glum when Google decided to close down its venerable RSS reader, effective yesterday. Maxim Lott at Fox News has this report:
“You would think that it would take little effort to maintain the site, but compliance keeps the cost up,” the source ["familiar with the matter"] told FoxNews.com.
He gave one example of a costly regulation.
“In Europe they’ve had a regulation for years where basically, if someone requests that all their data on a site be deleted, the company must comply. Reader wasn’t compliant with that. So it comes down to, do you spend a lot more resources making the service compliant, or working on something new?”…
Google spokeswoman Nadja Blagojevic declined to comment about whether regulatory costs played a role in Reader’s demise.
Randal O’Toole doesn’t share the concerns of Greg Beato and others.
“The Delhi High Court has ordered 21 companies, which have already been asked to develop a mechanism to block objectionable material in India, to present their plans for policing their services in the next 15 days.” A private complaint had charged the internet firms with permitting the dissemination of material offensive to Hindus, Muslims and Christians. [Emil Protalinski, ZDNet]
At Cato at Liberty, I find that uncannily reminiscent of a famous Bastiat parody (& IEA, Tim Worstall).
More from Coyote: “left unsaid is how they would jack up their prices when at least two other companies (Bing, Mapquest) also provide mapping services online for free.” But note that the French case arose not from Google’s furnishing of its free map service to individual end customers, but from its furnishing of its map API to businesses that typically adapt it for use in their own sites; as commenters at BoingBoing and Reddit as well as news reports point out, Google has indeed introduced fees for its largest business users of this type (which has caused some of them to adapt by switching from Google’s API to OpenStreetMap, a free wiki-based map service).