To Save Society from Digital Tech, Enable Scrutiny of How Policies Are Implemented

Article by Ido Sivan-Sevilla: “…there is little discussion about how to create accountability when implementing tech policies. Decades of research exploring policy implementation across diverse areas consistently shows how successful implementation allows policies to be adapted and involves crucial bargaining. But this is rarely understood in the tech sector. For tech policies to work, those responsible for enforcement and compliance should be overseen and held to account. Otherwise, as history shows, tech policies will struggle to fulfill the intentions of their policymakers.

Scrutiny is required for three types of actors. First are regulators, who convert promising tech laws into enforcement practices but are often ill-equipped for their mission. My recent research found that across Europe, the rigor and methods of national privacy regulators tasked with enforcing the European Union’s GDPR vary greatly. The French data protection authority, for instance, proactively monitors for privacy violations and strictly sanctions companies that overstep; in contrast, Bulgarian authorities monitor passively and are hesitant to act. Reflecting on the first five years of the GDPR, Max Schrems, the chair of privacy watchdog NOYB, found authorities and courts reluctant to enforce the law, and companies free to take advantage: “It often feels like there is more energy spent in undermining the GDPR than in complying with it.” Variations in resources and technical expertise among regulators create regulatory arbitrage that the regulated eagerly exploit.

Tech companies are the second type of actor requiring scrutiny. Service providers such as Goolge, Meta, and Twitter, along with lesser-known technology companies, mediate digital services for billions around the world but enjoy considerable latitude on how and whether they comply with tech policies. Civil society groups, for instance, uncovered how Meta was trying to bypass the GDPR and use personal information for advertising…(More)”.