The regulator’s puzzle

All industries are subject to general legislation - to criminal law, securities law, workplace safety law and so on. But some industries are important enough and complicated enough to get their own specific laws, and their own regulatory agency to manage and enforce that - hence food, aircraft, banks or oil refining are 'regulated industries'. It’s very clear that technology companies are moving much deeper into this regulated sphere - technology is becoming a regulated industry. This means lawyers and civil servants taking decisions (or at the very least, deciding not to take decisions) in complex ongoing arguments around everything from content moderation to app store competition to encrypted messaging.

These are all interesting problems in their own right, but from a regulator’s perspective, one of the problems to address is just how many problems there are. 'Tech' is a very diverse, widely-spread industry that touches on all sorts of different issues, and indeed lots of other industries, some of which have their own regulation. These issues generally need detailed analysis to understand, and they tend to change in months, not decades. Regulators have to decide what they think about encryption, but first they need to decide who decides, and what happens when different regulators disagree, and how quickly they can decide, and in which countries, and, perhaps, which problems to put off until after the election.

So, is payday lending online a matter for a financial or consumer regulator, or a digital regulator? Probably financial. But if the financial (Read more...)