After months in the making, the Internet Association, a coalition of 14 companies that includes Google, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Amazon, Facebook and Salesforce.com, launched on Wednesday.
It proclaims itself as the unified voice of the Internet economy and is dedicated to advancing public policy solutions to strengthen and protect Internet freedom, foster innovation and economic growth, and empower users.
The Association will “relentlessly” represent the Internet economy, in partnership with Main Street businesses and individual users, to the federal government.
To Serve and Protect
The Association will support policies that protect and promote Internet freedom.
Information should flow freely across national borders uninhibited by tariffs, regulations and government censorship, it says.
The Association supports policies that ensure individual users, businesses and governments can freely choose which Internet technologies and platforms to use and support without regulatory constraints.
Another way to look at these policies is to ask who benefits and how. For example, Facebook and Google have repeatedly run afoul of consumer and privacy advocates as well as various governments for breaching consumer privacy.
Meanwhile, Facebook is reported to be testing its own mobile ad network, which will let advertisers pay to target consumers with ads based on their Facebook data.
It’s in the interest of companies such as Facebook and Google to allow the free flow of information.
“I think this is a U.S. lobby and marketing group to keep the government from doing stupid stuff like SOPA and make sure privacy legislation doesn’t wipe out these companies or force them to move out of the country,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst, the Enderle Group, told the E-Commerce Times.
SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act, was killed after evoking bitter opposition from Internet companies as well as consumer and privacy advocates.
Innovation and Choice
The Alliance’s proclaimed support for innovation and consumer choice can be questioned.
For example, Google has reportedly forced Acer to drop plans to build a smartphone using Aliyun OS, an operating system developed by Chinese online business-to-business trading platform Alibaba.
Aliyun OS is a cloud-based Linux distro designed for smartphones, but Google apparently claims it’s a forked version of Android that’s incompatible with most Android software.
“Like all industry groups, [the Alliance’s] goal has nothing to do with protecting user freedoms,” Enderle pointed out. “These organizations are built to protect the interests of their members.”