The Law of Friction
University of Minnesota Law School
December 19, 2013
University of Chicago Legal Forum, 2013
Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper 12-66
“Frictionless sharing” became a Silicon Valley catchphrase in 2011. It refers to platforms such as Spotify or the Washington Post Social Reader that automatically publicize users’ activities in social networks like Facebook, rather than waiting for approval of each individual disclosure. This article carefully analyzes the benefits and drawbacks of frictionless sharing. Social media confers considerable advantages on individuals, their friends, and of course intermediaries like Spotify and Facebook. But many implementations of frictionless architecture have gone too far, potentially invading privacy and drowning useful information in a tide of meaningless spam. The article also dismantles the rhetoric of frictionless sharing. Because sharing is a volitional act, “frictionless sharing” is a contradiction in terms. In the physical world, too much friction can impede movement or even start fires, but too little would cause objects to slide off tables and cars off roads. The key to online disclosures also turns out to be the correct amount of friction, not its elimination.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 55
Keywords: privacy, internet, computer, consumer, social networks, social media, Facebook, Netflix, frictionless sharing
JEL Classification: D18, K1, K2, K19, K20, K23
Date posted: December 20, 2012 ; Last revised: December 20, 2013
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