What matters most is that adtech is collapsing under the weight of its own corruptions, rationalizations, bad manners and roles in hosting fraud, distributing malware, and flooding the world with content that has no purpose other than to hold spied-0n eyeballs still long enough to have ads thrown at them—and drowning journalism in the process as well.

Given all the reasons adtech is in trouble (DCN has a nice list as well), it’s kind of dumb for any company to want to get into that business, whether or not captive regulators create easements for it. Perhaps this is why Comcast and AT&T have both committed to protecting their customers’ privacy, even though the FCC doesn’t require it. (And perhaps no regulator will under the regulation-averse Trump administration.)

It also matters that Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and other carriers not only have competition (in many but not all cases), but paying customers who can take their business elsewhere. This means Comcast and AT&T can make hay by obeying the letter and spirit of the FCC rules Congress just threw out. And citizens can remember who did the throwing when the next election comes around. So, while the news makes for good entertainment and hand-wringing, watch what the market actually does.

Two other developments to look for:

  1. Individuals proffering terms as first parties in dealings with companies as second parties—instead of the current default, which is the other way around. This means personal data will be collected only at the individual’s grace. We’re working on this with Customer Commons. The regulatory easement for this has already been created in Europe by the GDPR. Australia has similar privacy protections.
  2. Products and services certified as privacy-protecting by independent bodies. This means you may buy from carmaker A rather than carmaker B, because A is known not to be harvesting or selling your personal driving data.

The tide is turning. Watch for it.

Written by

Author of The Intention Economy, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, Fellow of CITS at UCSB, alumnus Fellow of the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard.

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