1. Exquisite Tweets from @stevesi

    PreoccupationsCollected by Preoccupations

    What is going on with Facebook and privacy is very challenging for not just FB but many—consumers most of all (more than FB), but of also makers, regulators, marketers, and those relying on platforms. This is not unsolvable. But status quo won’t work…

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    stevesi

    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    Software has been the most magical ingredient in economic terms and clearly the biggest “economic revolution” to have taken place in history. Compared to the industrial revolution there has been one key difference…

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    The industrial revolution was very dangerous, physically. As it progressed it created a world of regulations for safety, employment, and then for products and then using products. What would factories or cars and driving be like without those regulations?

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    Of course many resisted—many in government and most in the private sector. Activists from unions to engineering socieities to consumer advocacy contributed to changing social norms.

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    Even though many disagreed, 1965 book “Unsafe At Any Speed” by Ralph Nader had a profound impact on the public view of cars, driving, safety. You can trace many developments in both product and accountability to this work, which was very controversial.

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    Fast forward from my birth year to my first year as a professional engineer and my very first assignment was to learn about computer viruses. These were “low tech” viruses that spread by infected floppy disc. But the ability to abuse “INT 27h” (gik) was well known.

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    It would be more than 10 years of viruses and malware and the rise of the internet before there would be action from the platform to address this.

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    stevesi

    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    At the time this was a crazy disaster for Microsoft and yet we remained “stumped” because people were “just using the platform the way we designed it”. Lots of huddles. Lots of consternation. The result was “Trustworthy Computing”.

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    In this memo that Bill Gates sent to the company (and world) he put forth a bold step which would essentially be an “upending” of priorities for Microsoft. The company would now prioritize security and privacy ABOVE doing new features for customers (including developers).

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    Here is the key excerpt “So now, when we face a choice between adding features and resolving security issues, we need to choose security…If we discover a risk that a feature could compromise someone's privacy, that problem gets solved first.”

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    So everyone gets the history, this was a big deal. There were tons of regulatory hearings around the world and a lot of “blame” and “lack of accountability” to go around.

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    In the end, the industry seems to have self-regulated and markets worked as seen from the results in the rise of new post-PC computing platforms that are more secure and private. But things are evolving differently in social networks and large databases. History only rhymes.

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    One of the more interesting aspects of software as an economic revolution was how it has escaped the “unsafe at any speed” moment. But as a professional “engineer” I always found that puzzling to some degree, as much as s/w benefited.

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    stevesi

    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    Going back to the 90s a bigger crisis loomed for software and that was “quality” and “reliability” but these never rose to a broad public debate or anger. In fact software sort of basically was viewed as “buggy”, “late”, and generally sloppy.

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    My biggest concern regarding quality as we were building Office was that sometime down the road we would be held to the same standards for quality that *our* customers in Detroit, Seattle, Frankfurt, Houston, Dallas and other engineering products would be held to.

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    I even wrote a memo, “Unsafe At Any Megahertz” outlining the ways that “Software Engineering” was not living up to “Engineering” the way that electrical, mechanical, civil do. No licensing, no apprenticeship, inspectors, standards, and more. Why?

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    I don’t know why. But I do know that the industry has done a phenomenal job of self-regulation. By and large quality has been on a constant march of improvement and projects are rarely “vaporware” any more or less than say construction. Yes I’m generalizing.

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    But along comes “data”…“breaches” (FB not a breach) and things seem different to me. In particular, damage is great and remediation mostly impossible—“identity theft” is almost benign expression for “our software engineering and processes failed” assigning away accountability.

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    The core challenge is privacy lacks “engineering” yet more importantly privacy/data already have an existing body of ad hoc regulations. Software flew “under the radar” because there were no regulations for makers just for their customers (just a tool used in process of making).

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    Today’s challenge is that there is a global patchwork of historic regulations around privacy that are impossible to navigate—imagine trying to build the exact same building in every major city of the world and meet code everywhere. Seems crazy complex.

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    If you look at airplanes or cars, the regulators in each place a) existed and b) worked together to develop agreements, reciprocity, and an understanding of the state of the art, standards, and how accountability should work.

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    That is what is missing today. That is what I would hope the large “collectors” of data would stand up and call for. I believe we are beyond the point of self-regulation only because we are already half-regulated. But hold on...don’t panic I know what I’m saying…

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    stevesi

    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    Regulation can be burdensome, awful, and even stifle innovation, create dysfunctional markets, advantage weak players, etc. The rule of regulation is unintended side effects. But also, planes almost never crash, electrical fires are rare, and buildings hardly fall.

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    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    With the advent of Europe’s GDPR it is clear that the state of no regulation is not going to happen with privacy and data as it relates to software. The worst case would be for the US to embark on both national and statewide regulation (and litigation) in dozens of silos.

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    stevesi

    Steven Sinofsky 🖇

    Look past negatives, regulators are great at collaborating, working through jurisdiction, driving standards, and creating public dialog on good approaches. How can this time and place and challenge serve to create this alignment between regulation and industry? Discuss…

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    stevesi

    Steven Sinofsky 🖇