News & Politics

Virginia Senator Ups the Ante with Big Tech Regulation Proposals

(Getty Images)

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia has taken on the task of addressing some of the problems caused by the big technology companies — issues such as selling our data and violating our privacy. He and his staff, as part of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have developed almost two dozen ideas in a new policy paper. Unlike most members of Congress, Warner understands tech. He has a doctorate from Harvard and had great success in the early days of the telecommunications industry.

The policy paper addresses three areas: Combating disinformation, protecting our privacy, and encouraging competition in the tech arena.

The report says:

The size and reach of these platforms demand that we ensure proper oversight, transparency and effective management of technologies that in large measure undergird our social lives, our economy, and our politics. The hope is that the ideas enclosed here stir the pot and spark a wider discussion — among policymakers, stakeholders, and civil society groups — on the appropriate trajectory of technology policy in the coming years.

Among the recommendations:

  • Web platforms must do a better job to differentiate fake accounts from real or be subjected to fines from the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Require platforms such as Facebook to be liable for personal claims, including defamation of character, invasion of privacy, and public disclosure of private information.
  • Follow Europe’s GDPR privacy rules in the United States
  • Label those widely used tech products, such as Google Maps as “an essential facility” that requires the company to offer access on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis terms and eliminate all self-dealing and preferential conduct.
  • Provide funding for media literacy programs to help educate consumers to better deal with  information found on online platforms
  • Require platforms to put a monetary value on our data.

California residents will not need to wait for privacy protection to be enacted at the federal level. Six weeks ago the state passed a digital privacy law that gives consumers more control over and a better understanding of the sharing of their personal information.

The new law that goes into effect in January 2020 requires that consumers are informed about the information companies are collecting about them and whom they are sharing it with. Individuals have the right to tell companies to delete their information and not to sell or share it. The law also allows consumers to sue the companies that commit a data breach and don’t follow the new law.

Not surprisingly, the law faced stiff opposition from Amazon, AT&T, Microsoft, Uber, Verizon, Facebook, and Google, but passed anyway by a large margin.