India’s government has rules in draft form that will require tech companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook to provide source code and algorithms.
The goal of the proposed rules is to build a wall against unfair monopolistic practices and create a more competitive business environment for local businesses.
Rules are Draft and Not a Requirement Yet
At this point these are proposals that have been under discussion for two years. This is a draft, not the final document.
The Indian government will at some point offer the draft to Google, Facebook and Amazon from a government website.
There is no indication that a hearing will be held to hear directly from the affected companies.
According to the report in Bloomberg News:
“The ministry will offer the draft policy for stakeholder comments on a government website.”
India Has a History of Asking for Secrets
I asked enterprise search marketing expert from Australia Ash Nallawalla (formerly of India), about this and he said:
“India is used to asking for and not getting such demands, e.g. Coca Cola chose to leave in the 1970s rather than provide India with its secret recipe. It came back many years later. IBM also left for a while because of demands that Indians write its code.”
I then asked:
“Did Coca-Cola provide their secret recipe to get back into India?”
Protection From Algorithmic Biases
The rules in the draft proposal are ostensibly to protect against biases. In the case of Google, that may mean biases that favor Google over more relevant Indian companies and services.
Google has been accused of favoring its own services over those of other companies. Google is said to be facing antitrust lawsuits in the United States over these very issues.
The United States is concerned about monopolistic practices by Google.
India perhaps has even more reason to be concerned about biases in Google’s search results.
India’s draft goes even further by discussing ascertaining whether eCommerce businesses like Facebook have what India calls “explainable” artificial intelligence.
According to Bloomberg, the goal of the proposed rules is help Indian businesses:
“”It is in the interest of the Indian consumer and the local ecosystem that there are more service providers” and that “the network effects do not lead to creation of digital monopolies misusing their dominant market position,” it said.”
Is More Better than Exceptional?
Are “more service providers” always good for consumers?
When Google first started there were nearly a dozen major search engines.
The reason all those search engines, like Excite, FAST, and Alta Vista eventually disappeared is because “more” is not always value proposition. All of those search engines were following each other, none were particularly interested in doing something exceptional.
The same thing happened with email. Most providers like Hotmail and Yahoo gave their users megabytes of space and burdened their users with banner ads.
Google came along and offered users Gigabytes of email space that was free of banner ads.
As happened in the search engine space and in the email space, it’s not always about more, sometimes it’s about better.
Protection Against Monopolies
All countries have good reason to protect against unfair monopolies. So the goal to prevent that are sensible.
But one has to ask, is requiring secret algorithms and source code going too far?
At what point does protecting against unfair monopolies become digital protectionism?
Read the original report on Bloomberg News: