Does regulation work *well enough*? >updated<

Controversy this month about privacy in the tech world. Urgent crisis, brewing for 2 decades. Companies are taking all the information about us and using our identities against us. So are state actors and other malicious agents. Headlines! World leaders focusing. American senators blathering about “the Internet is a series of tubes”. Europe’s fast-moving and careful regulators have crafted a powerful set of rules: GDPR. The tech world will have to react…

Two ways it could go: more loss of privacy or less loss of privacy.

Let’s say regulation doesn’t work at all and nothing is done (very possible). Well then there will be lots, lots more use of your private data for-profit and for-interests.

Let’s say instead that regulation *does* work. National governments everywhere race to pass laws. The American Clean Air Act, the Chinese government’s rate of particulate-pollution regulation (cutting emissions 3x faster – in just 4 years achieving what the US did in 12 back in the 1970s). Let’s say that happens… does that mean we will save privacy?

Seems it is worth considering what happened with pollution.

Clean air act passes in US 1970.

Result, this stuff goes down:


That saved lots of lives. Perhaps 8mm in 40 years (200k per year), based on this.

What’s a life worth? Some of these impact assessment tools say 5mm. So That was worth… 40 trillion. Wow. (I guess Coca Cola and speeding and tobacco and guns are costing us quite a bit as well…)

May I humbly point out this other result:

So they pass the Clean Air act, and Carbon Emissions take off…temperature climbs 1 degree centigrade, and the entire planet faces calamitous consequences worth…less than that by most economic estimates. Which is certainly false. Since all you will have to count is the bodies piled up in flooded, starving, war torn, mosquito-infested countries to get a number well north of 200k per year in the coming years — the economic, social, political and direct disaster impact will be very large.

My question then is if regulation worked well enough. As a society we regulated the obvious, short-term impacts and ignored the massive unstoppable momentum of CO2. I doubt privacy can be better regulated.