Regulating with Data

At this year’s Personal Democracy Forum, the theme was “the tech we need“.

One of the areas I’ve been focused on here is the need for “regulatory tech”.  In other words, tools & services to help broker the individual / government & corporation / regulator relationship.

In a nutshell: we are entering the information age, and as such our fundamental models for accomplishing our goals are changing.  In the case of regulation, that means a shift from the industrial, permission-based model to the internet-native, accountability based model.  This is an issue I’ve written about many many times before.

In order for this transition to happen, we need some new foundational technologies: specifically, tools and services that broker the data sharing relationship between government and the private sector.  These can be vertical services (such as Airmap for drones), or horizontal tools (such as Enigma).

You can see the video of the talk (10min) here:

And the slides are here:

The timing is apropos because here in New York State, the senate & assembly just passed a bill banning advertising for short-term apartment rentals.  This is a very very coarse approach, that declines to regulate using an accountability-based model rather than a permission-based model.  Now of course, this particular issue has been fraught for a long time, including claims that Airbnb manipulated the data it shared with NYS regulators.  But that situation is in fact a perfect example of the need for better tools & techniques for brokering a data-based regulatory relationship.



  • Very informative slide deck. I especially like your interpretation of the different eras. I think regulation could be a grey area- as it could potentially prevent progress in certain sectors, such as biotech, but in theory it should protect the general welfare of the people. Then there are sectors- finance, and even fantasy gambling that could be up for debate on how much regulation is needed. A friend of mine in London is a founder of a financial surveillance company called Ancoa that works with regulators to prevent fraud and insider trading and he approaches surveillance in a different way through many verticals. In NYC, I think with the passing of the bill to allow fantasy game gambling companies like DraftKings and FanDuels, the trend is becoming clearer that working with regulators and govts early on is the only way to bypass many of these obstacles in the early lifespan of a company. I’m wondering what your thoughts were on regarding Apple not releasing information to federal agencies that happened a couple of months ago?

    • thanks
      on apple: my general sense is that the FBI misplayed their hand, and that apple needed to stand up and say that they won’t build backdoors into their products. At the very least, that gave everyone the opportunity to have a discussion about it

      Sent with Mixmax

      • Joseph Savirimuthu

        I like the platform metaphor – intrigued to see how these translate to algorithsms/machine learning

  • Scottie Tomlinson

    I really enjoyed reading this. I just launched my own website using Google domain as the domain and have there google Apps features. There is WAY to many systems then I can even begin to understand all at once. Just to get to the analytics I had to go through very hard work and multiple web platforms to make it start flooding in the analytics. However thanks to people like you Nick, I found websites such as yours that have been walking me through all this information on how to run a website. In my case I’m trying to show the world my music and such because I am disabled and 26 stuck at home. My absolute favorite thing to do is to analyze the realtime incoming Analytics on my website. I’m sure you will be glad to see I have boosted your stats personally as well. It is well deserved because you wrote a perfect artical! Thank you,

    Scottie Tomlinson