Feb 28, 2014

Regulation Is Often A Good Thing, Just Like Government #

Marco Arment:

The argument that we don’t want “such a dysfunctional government” regulating broadband is weak: “the government” isn’t one big coordinated bogeyman that can’t be trusted with anything. That’s just rhetoric that politicians use to avoid regulation so corporations can make more money at the expense of the citizens or environment. In practice, governmental regulation works so well in most cases that it’s taken for granted and too boring for most people to even think about.

I’m glad Marco mentioned this, that government isn’t just one big blob and neither is regulation. They’re huge, multi-faceted, often-quite-efficient, but ultimately boring things.

John Gruber mentions the FCC’s 2011 decision to block AT&T’s T-Mobile acquisition as a good example of regulation doing what it does best: protecting consumers and disallowing large corporations from taking advantage of people.

Another example I think affects even more people: HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Everyone in the U.S. has heard of HIPAA in some capacity but in my experience most people drastically misunderstand HIPAA.

I know this because every time I talk to someone about Prime for the first time — whether it’s investors, doctors, or customers — the first question is “So HIPAA must make this hard for you right, with all the regulation?” The problem with this question is that it fundamentally misunderstands why HIPAA was created, how it was written, and how it regulates.

HIPAA was designed to give U.S. citizens the right to own their health data. The P in HIPAA stands for “portability”. The whole point of HIPAA is to give you, as a person, the right to control, move, and own your health data. That means you can request your health records from your doctors — starting in 2013 you could specify you wanted them electronically vs. on paper —, you can have your doctors purge them, and you’re granted the right to a professional level of security in the housing of those records.

The regulation here is for doctors and companies that make software for doctors. The regulation is not for consumers, and it is not for developers helping consumers.

HIPAA is huge, it is complicated, and it is regulation that works.