Internet of Things regulators might have learnt an interesting lesson from Google’s decision to shut down Google News in Spain as a consequence of the coming into force of new publishing law. 

The Google News case

As reported on the press, a Spanish law coming into force in January 2015 requires services which post links and excerpts of news articles to pay a fee to the Association of Editors of Spanish Dailies (AEDE) without giving the possibility to publishers to opt out or offer their content for free.

In the light of this upcoming regulatory change, Google decided to stop the operation of its Google News service in Spain giving rise to considerable complaints.

A lesson for the IoT?

The Internet of Things sector is facing is a very interesting period.  The Italian telecom regulator has just closed a consultation on regulations aimed at governing the IoT and is expected to issue measures based on the findings of the consultation in the next months.  At the same time, privacy regulators issued an opinion on data protection obligations applicable to the IoT setting quite burdensome compliance obligations.

As discussed in this post, the issue is whether it is the right time to put in place IoT regulations.  My personal view is that this might be the right time provided that IoT regulations are aimed at setting a more favourable playfield for the development of IoT projects.

The risk is otherwise that regulators will attempt to merely apply general rules that were set up for a world without IoT to IoT technologies with the effect that such technologies will not be financially or operationally viable.  And a further risk is that the attempt to protect users – which is quite strong especially in Europe – will have the consequence to set regulatory barriers (such as privacy obligations) pushing IoT companies to focus on different jurisdictions delaying, shutting down or not even launching products that would require to comply with excessive compliance obligations.

Who is a good model?

The Italian privacy authority gave a good example on how compliance can be achieved in a business oriented manner with their recent guidelines on the usage of cookies.  However, Italy is also the country where a web tax was planned to be introduced some months ago!

The identification of the right balance between regulatory protections and business needs represents a major challenge for regulators.  But there is no doubt that if Governments want to take advantage of all the benefits deriving from IoT technologies, they will have to find the best way to approach such challenge.