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Fear Not, Buy an iPad

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
If Steve Jobs’ name were Lindsay Lohan and he were looking for work starring as the wife of John Gotti Jr. in a mobster film, confrontation with the law would be the best thing that ever happened to Apple.

We all know Lohan can serve jail time and then spend weeks defending herself in court on new charges only to walk away flashing an ankle monitoring bracelet above her five-inch heels and … drum roll … land an acting gig next to John Travolta. For LiLo, fighting the law appears to be a remunerative gold star on her resume. For tech companies like Apple, not so much.

On June 3, 2011 a University of Southern California study revealed that almost 50 percent of Americans who connect to the internet worry that “big business” is spying on them. Only 38 percent worry about the government spying on them.

Anti-business government officials are frightening consumers with ridiculous privacy claims against high-tech companies that specialize in apps, off-site storage and social networking. Time Magazine reports: “FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz has been pleased by how effective he's been at using the threat of legislation to scare companies into taking action…”

Consequently, American tech firms are spending more time lobbying and fighting legal battles and less time innovating, creating jobs and generating profits for shareholders.

Do you read the morning news on a laptop as you spoon Cap’n Crunch into your mouth? Do you send emails from a BlackBerry, iPhone or Android? Do you run an online business? If so, read my five examples of tech companies scrambling to defend their business models and reputations from government attacks. Then, decide for yourself whether big government is more trustworthy than big business.

1. Google relies primarily on ad revenue to support the plethora of free services it provides consumers. Google reported lower first quarter net income due to designating $500 million to cover legal fees for a settlement it anticipates with the Justice Department over the legality of “certain advertisers” on Google.

2. You may think Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is quirky with his “personal challenge” diet to only eat the meat he kills. But, you can’t deny that Zuckerberg is a job creator.

For over a year, Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Chuck Schumer and other liberal politicians have been attacking Facebook’s privacy policies and trying to control Facebook. Facebook spent $230,000 lobbying in Q1 alone and just hired two more lobbyists.

If consumers are smart enough to cultivate their FarmVille plantations multiple times a day, aren’t they capable of managing their Facebook privacy settings? Should the government protect Americans from foreign enemies or hold their hands as they upload photos to Facebook? What is Facebook’s incentive to do business in the U.S. if it spends its resources fighting anti-business micromanagers in Washington instead of innovating and creating profits for shareholders?

3. Sen. Franken’s privacy subcommittee is pushing Apple and Google to defend, explain and revise their privacy practices. So, instead of innovating, Apple and Google are tied up in Congressional hearings explaining to tech-illiterate politicians that their devices request user permission before sharing location information with third-party applications.

4. The U.S. Department of Labor is using business to spy on business – launching its own smartphone applications so that employees can “catch” their employers cheating them out of hours.

Why is it OK for the government to slander Apple’s technology and then turn around and use Apple’s technology to pit employees against employers – setting the stage for lawsuits and fostering animosity toward business?

5. In April, the FCC bypassed Congress and introduced “data roaming rules” that will cut into the profit and innovation potential of firms like Verizon and AT&T. Verizon is suing the FCC.

Meanwhile, the FCC is stalling formal publication of the anti-business net neutrality regulations it approved in December of 2010. The FCC knows that delaying posting the rules to the Federal Register pressures federal appeals courts to temporarily dismiss lawsuits from broadband heavyweights like Verizon.

The FCC is pigeonholing businesses, forcing them to either accept rules that will hurt their long-term growth or rack up ridiculous legal fees challenging and re-challenging these rules.

Think twice before you believe the government’s anti-business privacy sermons. Bizo CEO Russell Glass tells Time Magazine: "It's the monster-under-the-bed syndrome. People are afraid of what they really don't understand. They don't understand that companies like us have no idea who they are. And we really don't give a s — -. I just want a little information that will help me sell you an ad."

Consider buying that iPad you’ve been admiring. Fearing new technology will ultimately derail your success and happiness. Let Sen. Franken take a time machine back to the Stone Age, but you don’t need to join him.

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