This blog entry describes how and why opaqueness is a must on Wall Street and notes the obvious — that a drive to maintain informational advantage frustrated attempts to regulate (and continues to do so) dangerous practices of asymmetry.
Transparency is the enemy of information advantages, and opacity is the friend of high margin investment products. In the wake of unprecedented regulation after the dot-com bubble and the Worldcom and Enron scandals, Wall Street turned transparency and disclosure on its head by layering so many documents onto each other, few people ever bothered to read them. This obfuscation of otherwise transparent information recreated new informational asymmetries leading to new high margin businesses. Informational advantages are what drive Wall Street profits.
A drive to maximize informational advantage defeats market mechanisms and public regulatory efforts leading to both market and public value failure.
While the author of this article is focusing on the “privacy” issues arising from research (Reality mining) using data found with new technologies, I think he highlights a means to battle information asymmetries (IA). IA leads to situations including moral hazards and I think act like a cancer on markets — and can lead to market failures. So, can technologies that defeat IA be a good (thing)?
And, so far as privacy is concerned, perhaps we should remember the not too distant past:
“The new information tools symbolized by the Internet are radically changing the possibility of how we can organize large-scale human efforts,” said Thomas W. Malone, director of the M.I.T. Center for Collective Intelligence.
“For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew,” Dr. Malone said. “In some sense we’re becoming a global village. Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly.”
Some links to follow: