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The Law of Friction

William McGeveran

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

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Date posted: December 20, 2012 ; Last revised: December 20, 2013

Suggested Citation

McGeveran, William, The Law of Friction (December 19, 2013). University of Chicago Legal Forum, 2013; Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper 12-66. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2192191

Contact Information

William McGeveran (Contact Author)
University of Minnesota Law School ( email )
229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States
HOME PAGE: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/infolaw

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