Photo: Flickr/White House
For decades, Silicon Valley has been a mecca for dreamers. People come to the Valley to turn science fiction into reality in ways that transform consumers’ lives. Turn-by-turn directions on our phones, real-time foreign language translation, and mini mobile computers in our pockets — the ideas that start as figments of engineers’ imaginations have become an integral part our daily lives.
These magical creations have made our tech industry the envy of the world. Foreign governments regularly look at Silicon Valley and ask how they could recreate some of its magic on their soil. And even within the U.S., policymakers would love to duplicate Silicon Valleys in communities around the country. In my home state of Utah we have a thriving tech industry — but I’d love to help it get bigger.
Unfortunately, instead of treating our U.S. tech industry as a crown jewel of our economy, President Obama’s Administration has treated it as yet another target of regulation.
Instead of encouraging the Valley to create transformative new products, regulators have repeatedly inserted themselves, believing that they know best and can manipulate industrial policy in the way they see fit.
Regulation of the tech industry has come from various parts of the sprawling federal bureaucracy. A few examples:
- The Federal Trade Commission has imposed on Facebook, Google and other companies 20 years of annual regulatory inspection of their data collection practices — despite the fact that these companies’ business models will likely be completely different two years from now. Unbelievably, the FTC even imposed 20 years’ worth of inspections on MySpace, a company that is struggling for its very survival.
- The Department of Commerce recently issued rules that could restrict software developers’ right to create the next generation of cool mobile apps.
- Regulators have advanced new regulations in the name of “privacy” despite the fact that identity theft, not online data collection, remains the number one source of consumer complaints for several years running.
- The FTC took five months to approve Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram — a company that has no revenue — and is considering bringing a lawsuit against Google for the company evolving its search results to make them too useful for consumers.
Four years ago, candidate Obama told us his tech agenda was to support a “business and regulatory landscape in which entrepreneurs and small businesses can thrive, start-ups can launch, and all enterprises can compete effectively.”
But that’s not how his Administration has governed. From the beginning, his appointees set a tone of aggression, if not hostility, toward the Valley.
There has never been a more competitive and vibrant time in the tech industry. Apple and Android are slugging it out in mobile; as Google gets into social networking, Facebook is getting into search; and the battle for the cloud is waging between Amazon, Salesforce, Dropbox and others. Everyone is competing against everyone now, and that’s leading to great choices for consumers.
This is not a sector that needs more policing, it’s a sector that needs celebrating.
If Silicon Valley is to retain its ability to innovate and create the next crave-worthy product for consumers, it doesn’t need government constantly looking over its shoulder. We need a President and Administration that will champion our tech industry, not police its every move. And we need an economy that is allowed to flourish and grow.