Smaller government or smarter governing?

One of the conservative ideologies in governing is that we need a smaller government and freer enterprise. The premise behind that thinking, I suspect, is that we trust companies to do well by doing good. The problem is they don’t often do so.

Here is the new initiative by AT&T

Enjoy more data. Starting with your October 2019 bill, you’ll get an additional 15GB of data on your Mobile Share plan. This bonus data comes with a $10 price increase. AT&T confirmed to The Verge that there’s no way to opt out of this “bonus.” Here’s the company’s statement:

“We are communicating with some customers regarding changes to their mobile plans. Customers have the choice to change their plan at any time and can always contact us with questions or to understand their options.”

This probably won’t surprise AT&T customers one iota, of course — this is the company that was just finally slapped on the wrist with a $60 million fine for throttling what were supposedly “unlimited” plans back in 2011, and the company that’s now pocketing an extra $800 million in “admin fees” every year after more than doubling that inexplicable surcharge last June. This is the company that’s now making you pay its property taxes on your business internet bill, while it repeatedly jacks up the rates of its few remaining grandfathered unlimited cellular plans.

Source: The Verge

The predatory practice is so disturbing that I don’t have the word to describe it.

Another example is Boeing with their 737 Max woe.

“The culture was very cost centered, incredibly pressurized,” Adam Dickson, who worked for Boeing for 30 years and led a team of engineers that worked on the 737 Max, told BBC Panorama in a program airing Monday night.

“Engineers were given targets to get certain amount of cost out of the airplane,” he added.” Certainly what I saw was a lack of sufficient resources to do the job in its entirety.”

Source: Business Insider

The cost-cutting goal at Boeing led to the company using $9/hour engineers on the planes that sell for millions of dollars and can decide the fate of thousands of passengers. This is a company that enjoys a duopoly of the sky, along with Airbus.

There are certainly a lot more examples of how companies do not volutarily act in the interest of consumers. You will find out more by watching a few episodes of either Patriot Act or Last Week Tonight.

My point is that companies care more about bottom line than consumer interest. Sometimes, those two issues align and be sure that they will advertise the hell out of what they do “for you”. Unless there is a party that can help keep the companies in check, consumers will be at their mercy. There are a few cases in which consumers can threaten the existence of companies such as the #DeleteUber movement a while ago, which suddenly kept Lyft from administration. However, those cases are not common or not common enough.

That’s why we need rules and governments to enforce those rules. It is understandable that red tape and unnecessary regulations are a pain and should be removed (trust me, as an immigrant dealing with all these immigration policies, I already had a bit of American bureaucracy). But that means we need to be smarter in governance , not less governance. By removing all regulations, we help companies reduce compliance costs and be legally less responsible.

As citizens, we don’t have the time and resources to understand all these regulations and conduct studies on how they affect business. The job is left to people who are dedicated to making laws: lawmakers. Hence, whenever somebody mentions that we ought to remove regulations, be sure to ask who and what will protect us citizens from the excessive corporate greed?

Government or Tech Corporations for our data and privacy

I had a brief conversation with a few close friends on Whatsapp on how to remain anonymous on the Internet and the role of governments and technology corporations in the fight to protect our data and privacy from being abused. As much of our life involves Internet, whether it is for work or personal use, the issue of our personal data and privacy becomes more overwhelming than ever. The question is who we can trust with our data: the governments or tech corporations.

Regarding governments, it’s safe to say that they haven’t done much to generate confidence. Many of my peers express lack of confidence in the governments to handle a huge amount of data and protect it from breaches. Worst, some said that data could be used to violate their privacy. For instance, the US government requested Apple to build a backdoor to iPhone. The Australian government wanted to build backdoors into encrypted communications apps. Even though I am convinced that having access to encrypted content may be required in some extreme cases (investigation, terrorist threats), the fact that the governments forcefully want to build backdoors to our device/data doesn’t really feel so good.

On the side of technology corporations, there needs no introduction. They are motivated to acquire as much of our data as possible. In some cases, they know about us more than we know ourselves. But they don’t actually protect our data well, to say the least.

Personally, I don’t think it is possible anymore to remain anonymous in this day and age. We are past the point of doing anything about the technology companies having our data. As long as we rely on their services for productivity and social purposes, we cannot avoid them. The same goes for the governments. When served with subpoenas, corporations have no choice, but to surrender our data.

Both have motivation to go against our wishes. Both don’t have our full confidence. Nonetheless, it’s not possible to choose one over the other. I believe that governments can keep technology companies in check with regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA or PCI. Citizens can elect officials who care about consumers/users to the office. On the other hand, technology companies can push the governments to evolve and not to slack off.


Each has a role to play in this check-and-balance system. It may sound idealistic, but I believe that it is our reality. Governments and big tech corporations are not going away any time soon and from our perspective as citizens/consumers, we need both to keep the balance. How will it be achieved? I don’t know. But I don’t think that it’s a zero sum game and that it is in our interest to favor one side over the other.