What if the head of Coca-Cola suggested a tax on sugary sodas to combat increasing instances of obesity? Or if the big three automakers heralded an increase in the gas tax as a way of repairing our highways? It would leave a lot of us scratching our heads.
That’s why many IT folks were left mouths agape last week when Microsoft Vice President for Trustworthy Computing Scott Charney suggested that an internet tax might be in order. Charney was speaking at an internet security conference when he opined that a broad tax on internet use would be a good way to offset costs associated with computer security breaches and vast internet attacks.
During his speech about increased cyber threats, Charney suggested the tax on internet use, noting, “You could say it’s a public safety issue and do it with general taxation.”
OF COURSE! That *totally* makes sense that consumers would have to bear the costs of fighting off cyber threats and internet attacks. It is, after all, our use of the internet that has contributed to this problem. That, and our opting to create operating systems that are vulnerable to these kinds of attack… Oh wait, that isn’t the fault of consumers at all. It’s more likely the fault of giant IT companies who build those operating systems.
But we don’t want those companies to bear the burden of those costs. I mean, they’re just struggling start up companies that don’t have the access to capital to properly address an issue directly related to the health of their own industry. Sheesh, Microsoft is barely scraping by – they only reeled in $6.6 BILLION in net profit in the fourth quarter of 2009 alone (Apple reported a measly $1.67 billion in net profit for its fiscal fourth quarter). Those kind of numbers totally scream that any additional research or costs to prevent breaches should be shouldered by consumers and not the companies responsible for the operating systems.
And let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is an issue of national importance. If you label it a “public safety issue”, it automatically gets more credibility. That’s why, in his speech, Charney likened concerns about internet safety to national health care threats, like preventable disease. While I realize that many industries rely heavily on technology (including my own), I didn’t know – until now – that cyber attacks apparently affect our nation on the same level as swine flu and polio. I, for one, now *completely* agree with being taxed more since I worry just as much about the safety of my laptop as I do about my children contracting a potentially fatal disease. And I am *really* grateful to Microsoft for comparing the two, to put it into perspective.
Mostly, I just sleep a little better at night knowing that those in positions of power at Microsoft have my best interests at heart and want to tax me for my own good. God love em.