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Ken Magill

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EU? Internet Innovation Leader? Hahahahahahahahaha!


By Ken Magill

As a member of the U.S. Air Force, I was stationed in the Netherlands for two years and loved it.

Many of my friends at the time were Dutch civilians. For one thing, I smoked hashish during those years and it was safer to have Dutch friends than fellow American G.I.s.

The years were 1980-82, and marijuana and hashish consumption were far more acceptable then than now. Much of the enlisted rank and file on that particular air base smoked hash at least sporadically. We were in Holland, after all.

But the military still frowned on it and one loose-lipped airman could get a lot of people busted. So on weekends I socialized mostly with the Dutch.

I would also regularly stun my Dutch friends when they would ask me what I thought of their country. Rather than point out any perceived shortcomings compared to the U.S., I would tell them how much I loved it and how sad I would be on the day it came time to leave.

And indeed, leaving Holland was one of the saddest days of my life that didn’t involve losing a loved one or a pet.

The Holland stint wasn’t my only time in Europe. I attended first grade in Leeds, England, for example. More recently, my wife, son and I went to Estonia for an absolutely magical vacation.

I say all this because although I love so much about Europe, I’m here to bash it.

Apparently, the general consensus in privacy circles is that the U.S. should be emulating Europe’s approach to the regulation of online advertising.

Following Europe from an online privacy perspective would be an act of profound stupidity.

Why? Because European business policies stifle innovation. Did Europe give us Google? Did Europe give us Facebook? Did Europe give us Twitter? How about Bing or Yahoo!?

How about the friggin’ Internet?

Why would we ever consider following the example of a continent that has contributed virtually nothing of note to the greatest communications innovation of our time, particularly on policies involving that innovation?

While researching this column—making sure Europe hasn’t contributed something I missed—I ran across a great, unintentionally funny headline from a 2009 article: “European Union unveils internet innovation strategy.”

Pffffft! Excuse me while I clean the coffee off my monitor.

Innovation requires risk taking, long hours and hard work, and embracing creative destruction. Is there anyone reading this who thinks Europe embodies any combination of those traits?

The 2009 article on the EU’s plan for Internet innovation closed paraphrasing Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for information society and media:

“This latest announcement will contribute to the EC's plans to make Europe a leader in the research and rollout of future internet technologies needed to ‘smarten up’ infrastructures, Reding said.”

Two and a half years later, does anyone consider Europe a leader in any Internet technology?

Rather than taking seriously those who say we should be modeling our Internet regulatory policies after the EU’s, we should be laughing them out of the room.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Matthew Kelleher
Date: 2012-04-04 09:12:27
Subject: European Privacy Laws

Hi Ken, I'm not here to defend the indefensible (ie the concept that Europe is an internet innovator in comparison with North America) but I don't agree that Privacy and Innovation is linked. For instance, under European Privacy laws UK Online Retail now accounts for 12% of all, Germany 9% (under far more draconian laws than most of the rest of Europe). The UK stats significantly exceed US figures which, according to Comscore, were 9%. My point is that the UK is growing online share in excess of the US despite, and maybe because of, European Privacy Laws which, it could be argued and if sensible which I believe European laws are (at the moment...) give consumers a sense of security.
Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2012-04-03 18:30:04
Subject: Berners-Lee

Oops. Forgot about that one. It in no way negates my point, however.
Posted by: Ludmila
Date: 2012-04-03 17:26:50
Subject: Not correct. Arpanet first and American

The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), was the world's first operational packet switching network and the core network of a set that came to compose the global Internet. The network was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the United States Department of Defense for use by its projects at universities and research laboratories in the US. The packet switching of the ARPANET was based on designs by Lawrence Roberts of the Lincoln Laboratory.[1]
Posted by: Mike Atkinson
Date: 2012-04-03 16:09:24

Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web while he was at CERN, and he's an Englishman.