Legislate and regulate—
1. No company to be allowed to store more than operationally required user data. No marketing-oriented analysis or profiling is to be permitted based on any data, ever. User data in any form may not be shared or sold, ever. If you're caught doing it, you will face existentially heavy fines. (Cautious exceptions for clinical, law enforcement reasons etc)
2. Advertising may be targeted by publication but not by user. So, it must conform to the print model: you may advertise horsey things to readers of myhorse.web, but under no circumstances create or publish ads on a per-user basis. Fines, etc.
4. All software, whether locally or cloud-based, may collect only minimal operational data with minimal essential context, never to include any users' data. All data capture must be by explicit opt-in with prominent ability to cease at any time and permanently.
5. Any company allowing user data to be compromised will be fined according to a scale of data importance and proportion of users affected. Lose 20% of users' data which includes cellphone numbers and email, fine is 10% of turnover. Some redistribution to affected users. Lose 40% of data including credit card details, you're out of business, assets seized, redistributed in proportion to affected users.
6. The web will be rejigged to ensure that all email and any other messaging costs (say) 0.1p/¢, to send. You use email/ Wossapp/Signal/&c., you pay a lump sum per 1,000 messages. The revenue is used to (a) finance the project; and thereafter, (b) fund a globally-based, scientifically-founded, independent, objective, professional fact-checking service which grades websites and apps for news, politics, marketing, blogging, reviewing etc etc, so that any visitor/user can see immediately how factually accurate its information is. A five-star rating will be highly prized. Less than three stars or no rating at all: you're liars and everyone can see it. All methodology, research, stats, analyses to be transparent at all times. (There will of course be £$billions available for this heroic effort.)
7. Anonymity is prohibited. A site wishing to host anon users must apply for a licence and give a very good reason (AA; drugs rehab; repressed minority movements, perhaps). You write an opinionated letter to your newspaper, you've always had to include verifiable name and addess. Why on earth should the net be any different? If you're too cowardly to stand behind what you say, perhaps you shouldn't be saying it.
Good Things That Flow From This Draconian Policy:
✩ No company relying on exploiting your data and selling you in exchange for a "free" service will be able to function. Google, Facebook, Twitter will have to charge an above-board sub. (Google may adopt the email model: pay £10 per 10,000 searches or similar.)
✩ The likes of MS will be confined to collecting only the narrowest of essential data, never, ever user-identifying.
✩ Data loss and consequential loss to users will effectively cease within months.
✩ Spam dies immediately.
✩ Social media uptake falls off a cliff, as does its use and traffic. If it'll cost you an extra £5/month to upload crass, bad photographs of your salad, you'll think again. Who knows, people might even confine themelves to using FB for what they say they like (staying in occasional touch with distant family) instead of what they actually use it for (boasting, bullying, lying, etc).
✩ Noxious websites promoting hate, various *-isms, bigotry etc will virtually disappear. When hate-tard Jimmy English starts peddling lies and nastiness about his brown neighbours, he can no longer hide behind anonymity. Propaganda is pushed back off the mainstream to the dark, dirty corners of the world where it belongs. Haters, bigots, racists, and the rest can crawl back into the muck instead of being gifted a free soapbox. (Even on sites like this we'll have to think twice about what we say ... but grown-up responsibility is not a bad thing.)
Drastic? Yes: for sure.
Reintroducing a long overdue dose of grown-up responsibility into this ever-crazier world? I think so. Humanity needs to return to adult civilised thinking and behaviour: else we're screwed.