Tim Berners-Lee believes the online world has gone astray. Too much power and too much personal data, he says, reside with the tech giants like Google and Facebook — “silos” is the generic term he favors, instead of referring to the companies by name. Fueled by vast troves of data, he says, they have become surveillance platforms and gatekeepers of innovation. Regulators have voiced similar complaints. The big tech companies are facing tougher privacy rules in Europe and some American states, led by California. Google and Facebook have been hit with antitrust suits.
Georgia's election results handing Senate control to Democratic lawmakers mean the incoming Biden administration can fill key seats at the agencies that regulate tech.
Here are the top reforms and nominations that could stand a chance in the new Congress assuming — as now seems likely — Democrats control both chambers and the White House.
The new Congress just gaveled in Jan 3, but top lawmakers are already hashing out their priorities on tech policy. There’s bipartisan appetite for more broadband moves. Lawmakers made increasing broadband access a priority in the latest round of COVID-19 relief talks, allocating billions for the effort, but their work might not be through. Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) said one of his top priorities will be to “keep expanding rural broadband.” “It's so essential to make sure that we have it across the entire country,” he said.
Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), both members of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced the Every Child Connected Act—legislation that aims to reduce the digital divide between students with and without internet access, known as the Homework Gap. Specifically, the legislation accomplishes this goal by targeting available funding sources from Federal Trade Commission data privacy violations to provide vital connectivity to American students at home. The Every Child Connected Act would:
The Data Protection Commission (DPC) announced a conclusion to a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) investigation it conducted into Twitter International. The DPC’s investigation commenced in January 2019 following receipt of a breach notification from Twitter and the DPC has found that Twitter infringed Article 33(1) and 33(5) of the GDPR in terms of a failure to notify the breach on time to the DPC and a failure to adequately document the breach. The DPC has imposed an administrative fine of €450,000 on Twitter as an effective, proportionate and dissuasive measure.
FTC Issues Orders to Nine Social Media and Video Streaming Services Seeking Data About How They Collect, Use, and Present Information
The Federal Trade Commission is issuing orders to nine social media and video streaming companies, requiring them to provide data on how they collect, use, and present personal information, their advertising and user engagement practices, and how their practices affect children and teens. The FTC is issuing the orders under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act, which authorizes the FTC to conduct wide-ranging studies that do not have a specific law enforcement purpose.
Apple and Google will ban the data broker X-Mode Social from collecting any location information drawn from mobile devices running their operating systems in the wake of revelations about the company’s national-security work. The two largest mobile-phone platforms told developers that they must remove X-Mode’s tracking software from any app present in their app stores or risk losing access to any phones running Apple’s or Google’s mobile operating systems. Both Apple and Google disclosed their decision to ban X-Mode to investigators working for Sen.
The Federal Trade Commission and 48 state attorneys general filed wide-ranging antitrust lawsuits against Facebook, setting the stage for a potential breakup of the social-networking giant over charges it engaged in illegal, anti-competitive tactics to buy, bully or kill its rivals. The twin lawsuits filed in federal district court chiefly challenge Facebook’s past acquisition of two companies: Instagram, a photo-sharing tool, and WhatsApp, a messaging service.