Public Citizen Finds Widespread Support for Regulating Big Tech Companies and Protecting Data Privacy

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By David Rosen, Public Citizen

A growing number of voices are calling for greater regulation of technology companies, increased privacy and security protections for online personal data, as well as measures to protect the integrity of our elections in the digital age. Here’s what people are saying.

THE PUBLIC

“Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed would like to see privacy laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation enacted in the U.S.”

– Janrain poll, May 2018

“Eighty-three percent of those polled said America needs ‘tougher regulations and penalties for breaches of data privacy,’ while 84 percent agreed that ‘technology companies should be legally responsible for the content they carry on their system.’”

– Tech Media Telecom Pulse / HarrisX poll, April 2018

“Six in ten Americans think the government should increase regulations on technology and social media companies to try to prevent user data from being taken – a view that cuts across partisan lines, shared by most Democrats and Republicans.”

– CBS News / YouGov poll, April 2018

“Most Facebook users say they support some governmental regulation of the use and distribution of personal data on social media.”

– CNBC / Reconnect Research poll, March 2018

“Fewer than half of Americans trust Facebook to obey U.S. privacy laws.”

– Reuters / Ipsos poll, March 2018

“55 percent of respondents are more concerned that the government won’t regulate technology companies enough in the future.”

– Axios / Survey Monkey poll, February 2018

POLITICAL LEADERS

“‘Data collection and how data is used’ is an example of an area that needs regulation. This includes what happens to people’s data and ‘how it gets commercialized.’ Obama wants to see Silicon Valley and lawmakers work together to come up with regulations for ‘a framework, agreed upon, transparent, that people understand.’”

– Former President Barack Obama, May 2018

“Our campaign finance laws have left open an enormous loophole for foreign actors to secretly violate our campaign finance laws and possibly influence our elections. It’s time we update the laws so that online platforms are held to the same transparency standards as other companies that sell political advertisements. Election security is national security, and we have to start acting like it.”

– U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), October 2017

“America deserves a privacy bill of rights that puts consumers, not corporations, in control of their personal, sensitive information. The avalanche of privacy violations by Facebook and other online companies has reached a critical threshold, and we need legislation that makes consent the law of the land. Voluntary standards are not enough; we need rules on the books that all online companies abide by that protect Americans and ensure accountability.”

– U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), April 2018

“We’ve seen the apology tours before. Unless there are specific rules and requirements enforced by an outside agency, I have no assurance that these kinds of vague commitments are going to produce action.”

– U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), April 2018

“If Facebook or other online companies will not or cannot fix the privacy invasions, then we in Congress are going to have to.”

– U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), April 2018

“Facebook is a virtual monopoly, and monopolies need to be regulated. Continued self-regulation is not the right answer when it comes to dealing with the abuses we have seen on Facebook.”

– U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), April 2018

“The status quo no longer works. Congress must determine if and how we need to strengthen privacy standards.”

– U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), April 2018

“Perhaps we should treat social media platforms as information fiduciaries and impose legal obligations on them, as we do with lawyers and doctors who are privy to some of our most personal private information.”

– U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), April 2018

“I don’t want to vote to have to regulate Facebook, but by God I will. Your user agreement sucks. The purpose of that user agreement is to cover Facebook’s rear end; It’s not to inform users of their rights.”

– U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), April 2018

“I think there’s certainly a strong case to be made for regulation of some kind.”

– U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), April 2018

“The time is now to pass meaningful legislation that not only protects consumers’ personal information from being manipulated by corporate and political marketing interests, but truly gives consumers the power to control and decide how their information is stored and used. Privacy is an issue that should unite us, not drive us apart. It’s past time for our laws to reflect this reality through commonsense rules for data collection, transparency and use.”

– U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), April 2018

“Congress has an obligation in this moment to protect American citizens and national security. We can’t let that be done, as well-intentioned as they may be, by 30-year-old entrepreneurs.”

– U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), April 2018 (Khanna represents Silicon Valley)

“We should consider starting discussions on a digital data consumer protection agency, one that will take a comprehensive look clear across different industries to make sure that we’re all safe.”

– U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), April 2018

“As technology develops at a rapid pace, Silicon Valley needs to ensure that the proper protections are in place to guard consumer privacy.”

– Josh Hawley, Attorney General of Missouri, April 2018

NEWSPAPER EDITORAL BOARDS

“Now is as good a time as any to begin a serious examination of how American privacy regulations can be strengthened. Throughout history, meatpackers, credit card companies, automakers and other businesses resisted regulations, arguing they would be ruined by them. Yet, regulations have actually benefited many industries by boosting demand for products that consumers know meet certain standards. Facebook and other internet companies fear privacy regulations, but they ought not to. Strong rules could be good for them as well as for consumers.”

– The New York Times, April 2018

“What’s missing is a baseline set of rules to ensure that all online sites, services and apps reveal what they’re collecting and why, and give people a meaningful say over whether and with whom their data is shared – in plain English.”

– The Los Angeles Times, April 2018

“Protecting democracy is more important than a Silicon Valley business model.”

– The New York Post, October 2017

“The next step should involve Congress passing a law, similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, that makes companies financially liable when they’re negligent in the protection of private data. Whether Facebook, Equifax or Target, corporations must be held to a higher standard when handling our personal information.”

– The Houston Chronicle, March 2018

“Members of Congress finally have woken up to the urgency to protect the personal information collected by giant social media platforms. Regulation is needed. Everyone knows it. The uncertainty and challenge are the form and extent of new privacy rules. But they must come, because Facebook has proved time and again that the government cannot leave that task to it and others like Instagram and Twitter.”

– Newsday, April 2018

“Because of its size and reach, Facebook ought to submit to government oversight and critically examine its approach to data.”

– The Guardian, March 2018

“We said four years ago that tech’s failure to support a federal online bill of rights would come back to haunt the industry. The day of reckoning has arrived. It’s appalling that the country that gave the world the internet is the only nation in the developed world without fundamental consumer protections over the collection and dissemination of users’ private information.”

– The East Bay Times & The Mercury News, April 2018

“This is an opportunity for U.S. regulators to catch up to peers in Europe who have responded more assertively to privacy, taxation and antitrust concerns with U.S. tech giants. Penalties and more privacy safeguards are in order.”

– The Seattle Times, March 2018

“Loose rules and little regulation created the ideal conditions for Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm, to gain troves of information about 87 million people through what looked like a harmless little personality quiz. Europe has tired of the wait and is moving ahead with stricter privacy controls that go into effect in May. Some of Europe’s new rules may not be right for this country, but that shouldn’t stop Congress from getting to work on creating a new American standard for transparency and privacy.”

– The Star Tribune, April 2018

“The Facebook user agreement shouldn’t be the go-to regulation for protecting US consumers or governing ethics online. That’s the job of elected officials. One potential remedy is already on the books: In 2011, Facebook settled charges by the Federal Trade Commission that it deceived users by promising privacy; new violations could result in stiff fines. But consumers don’t yet even know what information was stolen, or when. If it’s unrealistic to expect a return to that safe sandbox, state and federal officials can at least bring clarity to the rules of the playground.”

– The Boston Globe, March 2018

“Given the overwhelming influence of social media, the obvious risks for misusing private information and the futility of depending on those companies to police themselves, Congress needs to act. When private businesses show they cannot be trusted, they invite regulation. That’s where the country finds itself today with Facebook and social media in general.”

– The Buffalo News, April 2018

TECH EXECUTIVES

“The internet is growing in importance around the world in people’s lives, and I think that it is inevitable that there will need to be some regulation.”

– Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, April 2018

“I think that this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary.”

– Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, March 2018

“Charter believes individuals deserve to know that no matter where they go online or how they interact with online services, they will have the same protections. So we are urging Congress to pass a uniform law that provides greater privacy and data security protections and applies the same standard to everybody in the Internet ecosystem, including us. Moreover, we believe this standard needs to not only apply to everyone, it needs to be strong. These consumer protections only work if all members of the ecosystem – like social media apps, web browsers, broadband providers, online advertisers and data brokers – participate.”

– Tom Rutledge, CEO of Charter Communications, April 2018

“Where regulators can play a part is accountability. I’d ask regulators be harsh with accountability.”

– Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of UBER, January 2018

OPINION LEADERS

“The fact that they are near-monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should subject them to more stringent regulations, aimed at preserving competition, innovation, and fair and open universal access.”

– George Soros, founder of the Open Society Foundations, January 2018

“The fact is nobody, for some reason, is looking at these monopolies that are Google and Facebook. That’s where the government should be looking, and helping to make sure everyone else survives. I think that’s probably the biggest issue facing the growth of journalism in the years ahead.”

– Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, February 2018

“Since for most technology companies the individual consumer is also a product, whose information is sold to others for a profit, he or she is doubly disempowered. The tech giants would surely respond that they have democratized information, created products of extraordinary power and potential, and transformed life for the better. So did previous innovations such as the telephone, the automobile, antibiotics and electricity. But precisely because of these products’ power and transformational impact, it was necessary for the government to play some role in protecting individuals and restraining the huge new winners in the economy.”

– Fareed Zakaria, journalist, March 2018

“In recent years, we’ve seen conspiracy theories trend on social media platforms, fake Twitter and Facebook accounts stoke social tensions, external actors interfere in elections, and criminals steal troves of personal data. We’ve looked to the platforms themselves for answers. Companies are aware of the problems and are making efforts to fix them – with each change they make affecting millions of people. The responsibility – and sometimes burden – of making these decisions falls on companies that have been built to maximise profit more than to maximise social good. A legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives may help ease those tensions.”

– Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, March 2018

“The internet economy has made our personal data a corporate commodity. The United States government must return control of that information to its owners.”

– Tom Wheeler, former Federal Communications Commission chair, April 2018

“Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, and our democracy functions best when we have control over our personal information online. But the existing legal framework we have is inadequate to properly protect online privacy. Now is the time for Congress to pass comprehensive privacy legislation that gives consumers opt-in choice, not just for Facebook, but across-the-board, for those who hold our personal data.”

– Michael Copps, former Federal Communications Commission commissioner, April 2018

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