Congress Sets New Tone With Big Tech : NPRMarch 14, 2019
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For years, the big tech companies have been given pretty much a free rein by Capitol Hill to act as they chose. What congressional oversight of the industry, there was largely focused on whether there was political bias on various platforms.
But in an abrupt reversal this week, Congress is holding oversight hearings, and lawmakers are proposing new regulations in a crackdown on how big tech companies use and resell their customers’ personal information.
The change is driven in part by the new Democratic majority in the House, along with younger and more tech-savvy lawmakers in both parties.
“They want to know”
The constant stream of reports about how data is being used by companies like Facebook and Google (both of which have been NPR funders) shows that self-regulation hasn’t worked, said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.
“In the last two weeks alone, we learned that Facebook exposed individuals’ private health information that consumers thought was in a protected closed group,” Schakowsky told NPR, “and collected data from third-party apps … on issues as personal as women’s menstrual cycles and cancer treatment.”
Schakowsky says legislation “that sets the terms on privacy” is needed.
“And I think what consumers really want is transparency. They want to know what’s actually being collected. They want some control and then they want some accountability.”
There aren’t many issues in Congress with bipartisan support these days, but the need for stricter privacy rules for tech companies is one. Republicans agree that it’s time to set some limits on what big tech companies can do with personal data.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says he has “not met a single American who has ever fully read the fine print of some sort of agreement when you download an app or get an update.”