A lot of Internet companies, according to Polonetsky, are simply saying, "I've had enough of this. I have some pretty big plans to do some pretty good things with technology, and I don't want to be called a bad guy. I'm ready to have the practices that seem to be of grave concern taken off the table so I can roll things out."
Even as the technology evolves, and legislators and courts and corporations slowly smarten up, and society gets more Web-savvy, some of this stuff will always be with us.
Tien mentions a phrase he likes from philosophy: essentially contested concept. That's an idea that pretty much everybody recognizes and agrees exists in theory — "justice," say — but on which there's little concurrence about just what it is and how to achieve it.
"Privacy is essentially contested," says Tien. "We want to protect our privacy, but there are grand incentives to know more about us. Combine this problem of competing incentives with the problem of how hard a problem it is to solve and how every era changes the technology: even if the problem gets solved for the telephone it didn't get solved for e-mail and it didn't get solved for social networking. It's always going to be work."
Mike Miliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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