Paul Ohm, Brett Frischmann

"Privacy law tends to focus on imposing obligations on companies that are behavioral–""do not use data for secondary purposes"" or ""do not collect sensitive information without consent""–or process-oriented–""post a privacy policy"" or ""give users a right to access their information"". This article explores alternative, structural approaches for protecting privacy, as well as other values including fairness, justice, and accountability.
 Specifically, the article analyzes the idea of a ""governance seam"". Laws, regulations, and consent decrees can require a firm to segment its activity, code, data, infrastructure, or organizational structure into two parts separated by a well-defined interface. Unlike the related but more drastic competition law remedy of a break-up, a governance seam allows the firm to keep control over what happens on both sides of the seam and even to define the details of the seam itself, but it strips the firm of the ability to decide whether to split activity at all or at a particular point.
 This article explores how governance seams enhance the public's ability to enforce and govern the conduct of powerful information-era companies. A governance seam gives actors outside the firm–not only law enforcers but also academic researchers and civil society watchdogs–greater visibility into the firm's actions. Interfaces provide a locus of visibility, a vantage point from which data flows can be observed. An interface is also a portal for testing inputs and outputs of block box systems when access to internal operation needs to be kept shrouded.
 Governance seams also set the scene for future, more aggressive government action. A governance seam provides a boundary along which a firm may be broken up, if less drastic measures do not work. Short of break up, a governance seam can be rendered public, through government action to turn access to and control over the interface to a standards setting body, or to the government itself, while allowing the firm to continue to operate the two halves separated by the public interface.
 The article connects governance seams to many theoretical ideas in platform regulation. It builds on a growing literature of friction-in-design, which looks to help counteract the sometimes harmful industrial veneration of frictionless. Seamlessness is another supposedly unalloyed good sought by Silicon Valley, and governance seams might be a useful counterweight. The idea builds on theories from STS and legal scholarship on regulating design to combat information harms. Governance seams also help implement what Julie Cohen has called semantic discontinuity, a baseline of ""interstitial complexity"" that we ought to preserve in platforms to support human flourishing and protect a host of important interests.