The dangers of lawmakers contradiction and confusion on Big Tech – Yahoo News

Posted: October 15, 2021 at 8:53 pm

Sen. Richard Blumenthals (D-CT) mention of a finsta, or fake Instagram account, during a recent Senate hearing on childrens online safety immediately became fodder for discussion across social media. The clip went viral and sparked debate over Blumenthals misunderstanding and Congress ability to understand how tech companies work and how consumers use technology. One thing remains clear: There is a problematic gap between some lawmakers understanding of the tech sector and their relentless desire to regulate it.

Enter Sen. Marsha Blackburns (R-TN) contradictory comment from the same hearing, further highlighting the dangers of lawmakers conflicting and sometimes illogical attitudes toward tech companies often based on an incomplete understanding of how society uses technologies like Instagram or Facebook. Citing a Facebook internal report, Blackburn told a company witness, Facebook knew about content devoted to coercing women into domestic servitude. Yet they chose to do nothing to stop it, until Apple threatened to pull Facebook from the App Store. Blackburn seemingly cheered Apples strict App Store policies that allowed Apple to police Facebook in response to harmful content on the Facebook app, even when the social media company was reluctant to do so itself. Apples ability to control access to its App Store what the aforementioned Facebook report referred to only as Apple escalation prevents malicious or misleading software applications from reaching 1.65 billion active Apple devices. The threat of being removed from the App Store and losing access to Apples global customer base motivates developers to adhere to security and privacy guidelines that protect those customers as Blackburns Facebook example proves.

Blackburn doesnt seem to understand that one of her legislative proposals would ban the exact practice she praised Apple for employing ensuring Facebook cant track iOS users thanks to Apples control over its App Store ecosystem. Along with Blumenthal and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Blackburn is a cosponsor of the Open App Markets Act, which would effectively block platforms like Apple from prohibiting user downloads of unvetted and potentially harmful apps from third-party app stores and web browsers through a process known as sideloading. The law clearly targets Apple and Google but seems to forget Facebook entirely, including that the company owns four of the App Stores top ten apps: Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. If this law were passed, Facebook would be allowed to bundle its applications for these services and bypass existing security and privacy measures imposed by app-store operators.

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Blackburns cognitive dissonance reflects a dangerous trend of lawmakers saying one thing and doing another when it comes to digital platforms. This year, the Senate passed the United States Innovation and Competition Act, a $110 billion investment in technology research. Its disconcerting to see the Senate pass legislation to boost Americas technology industry with funding toward research and development, then come forward with a handful of proposals that would devastate American tech companies in the name of competition. The Open App Markets Act and the House Judiciary Committees antitrust legislative package specifically target Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google companies that have made the United States the world leader in digital innovation.

Data collection is the real issue driving the concerns of many in Congress. If Congress wants to help consumers have a more secure digital experience, they should focus on passing a federal privacy law. Having a clear set of guidelines around how companies collect, maintain, share, and dispose of consumer data would be the best guidance Congress could give tech companies to help consumers. By confusing consumer safety with competition, Congress is going down an inconsistent legislative path that limits American technological innovation but does not promote policies that could help consumers make more informed choices.

Currently, American consumers are living under European regulations by default, due to our lack of comprehensive federal privacy laws. Europes General Data Protection Regulation has taken a commanding lead in dictating how global companies manage their data flows or face major financial consequences. Americas lead in the global technology race is ultimately threatened by its own lack of a national privacy law that encompasses data-collection transparency and clear cybersecurity standards. How US-based companies have changed their data-collection processes to appease European regulators is a fact we must consider as Europes regulations shape how the rest of the world uses the internet for both commerce and communications.

Lawmakers should focus on giving consumers much-deserved clarity and security around the collection of their data. Measures that enable better data protection would be the best regulatory guidance Congress could provide. Contradictory legislative proposals, however, wont help protect American consumers or give American companies guidance on how to conduct and secure information flow a core driver of technological innovation.

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Tags: Think Tanks

Original Author: Shane Tews

Original Location: The dangers of lawmakers contradiction and confusion on Big Tech

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The dangers of lawmakers contradiction and confusion on Big Tech - Yahoo News

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