When the Policy is This Bad, Politics Might Be the Only Explanation

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently proposed a tech agenda as his “Digital Bill of Rights” for the state’ blessedly short 60-day legislative session. While there are five other states that have passed privacy bills out of one of their legislative chambers this year (Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Montana and Oklahoma), the Florida bills look a lot more like economic regulation than privacy actions, per se. Florida’s infusion of the culture war into proposed tech regulations so fundamentally misunderstands or ignores the fundamentals of how the online ecosystem works that it’s hard to see them as anything other than political.

For example, SB 262  and HB 1547 would allow Florida residents to opt-out of many forms of online advertising with “companies with gross revenues of over $1 billion a year to implement new consumer privacy rights if they make at least half their revenue from targeted or online ads, or operate smart speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa and certain voice-command services.” 

In other words, the point here is beating up on ‘Big Tech.’ 

This bill cannot be about protecting consumers’ privacy if 99% of the entities that collect consumer information, including data brokers, are not subject to the rule. This bill cannot be about consumer welfare in terms of costs because reducing advertising will create incentives for more subscription models online. This shifts the costs of viewing content squarely onto the consumer. And this bill cannot be about ‘the little guy’ because small business advertisers will see the effectiveness of their ads degraded.   

This bill is about politics, not sound policy.  Let’s hope Floridians put the sound principles of light-touch regulation and economic prosperity back at the center of policy-making.