Nancy Scola

Big Tech faces a ‘Big Brother’ trap on coronavirus

As the federal government shifts into an all-hands-on-deck fight to battle coronavirus, President Donald Trump and his White House have increasingly called on tech companies to lend a hand.

Court Dismisses Challenge of FCC Phone Deregulation

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a legal challenge from Public Knowledge, The Greenlining Institute and other groups to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s 2017 rollback of certain Obama-era requirements for phone companies angling to transition off of legacy copper networks. “This is a victory for American consumers, who will benefit from faster fiber deployment and the increased availability of next-generation services,” Chairman Pai said. He has touted the deregulation as critical for allowing the transition to more advanced, IP-based networks.

House still searching for a privacy deal

House committee leaders are still unable to strike a final deal on key privacy issues and are instead opting to release a discussion draft as bipartisan talks continue. House Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) is spearheading those talks in the chamber. She will release a draft bill as early as next week that will not address hotly contested issues over whether a national standard should override state laws or enable consumers to sue companies over privacy violations.

Facebook considering limits on targeted campaign ads

Facebook is considering restricting politicians' ability to use highly detailed demographic and personal information to narrowly target would-be voters with ads, policy chief Nick Clegg confirmed in a possible shift in the social network's broadly permissive policy on political advertising. Clegg declined to discuss any other changes, saying the company is still in the decision-making process.

FTC Democrats chart a new course

Thought things are tough for the tech industry in Washington now? Building Democratic frustration with the industry could bring a bigger crackdown if the 2020 election puts the party back in control of the White House. Look no further than the Federal Trade Commission — and its two Democrats — to see those dynamics at play. In a series of unusually blunt dissents in recent cases involving Facebook and Google, FTC Commissioners Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter argued for much tougher financial penalties for companies that break their promises and abuse their users’ privacy.

How do you solve a problem like 8chan?

President Donald Trump’s vow to scour “the dark recesses of the internet” came as deadly gun violence provoked ire over fringe online platforms like 8chan, an anonymous message board that has hosted a racist manifesto linked to Aug 3's deadly shooting in El Paso (TX). But any effort to curb dangerous extremism online will run into a host of obstacles:

Why Facebook should fear a Democratic win in 2020

The Democratic anger over Facebook is the most potent sign yet of the peril Silicon Valley faces if the party regains full power in Washington: Investigations could become more intrusive, and the online industry could face punishments that have never realistically been on the table — including a ban on the kind of behavior-based advertising that supplies Facebook's fortune. Such repercussions could go even beyond the backlash that tech is experiencing under the Trump administration.

Who should keep an eye on Silicon Valley?

The federal government's struggles to rein in Facebook are driving some Democrats and consumer advocates to a stark conclusion: The agency charged with regulating Silicon Valley is not up to the task. The 105-year-old Federal Trade Commission is a main enforcer of Americans' consumer protections but it has only a small fraction of the money and workforce of the nation's largest tech companies — and a privacy staff less than half that of the Irish agency that regulates Facebook's European operations.

Facebook's FTC worries go beyond a massive fine

Facebook may be facing a multi-billion dollar fine from the Federal Trade Commission over its privacy practices, but it’s the possibility of mandated changes to its data-driven business model that could be much more threatening to the company and its bottom line. The agency could seek changes in company behavior as part of a negotiated settlement, including limiting the way it collects and handles user data — the lifeblood of Facebook's advertising-driven business.

FTC plans broad review of tech data practices

According to a series of letters from Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joe Simons to US senators, the agency is planning to launch a wide-ranging study of tech companies' data practices. He wrote that the FTC is planning to conduct a so-called 6(b) study, which the agency has previously applied to data brokers and businesses accused of abusing the federal patent system. He suggested the study would target large tech firms but didn't specifically name companies like Google, Facebook or Amazon.