SAN FRANCISCO — In Europe and the United States, the conventional wisdom is that regulation is needed to force Silicon Valley’s digital giants to respect people’s online privacy.
But new rules may instead serve to strengthen Facebook’s and Google’s hegemony and extend their lead on the internet.
That could begin playing out next month, when Europe enacts sweeping new regulations that prioritize people’s data privacy. The new laws, which require tech companies to ask for users’ consent for their data, are likely to hand Google and Facebook an advantage. That’s because wary consumers are more prone to trust recognized names with their information than unfamiliar newcomers. And the laws may deter start-ups that do not have the resources to comply with the rules from competing with the big companies.
In recent years, other regulatory attempts at strengthening online privacy rules have also had little effect at chipping away at the power of the largest tech companies, ultimately aiding internet incumbents rather than hurting them.
Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress made for great theater, but the questioning was not without conflicts of interest: Many of those who grilled him had received donations from Facebook.
According to The Verge, since 2014 Facebook has contributed $641,685 to the members of Congress who questioned Zuckerberg. The top recipients include Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).
The hostility of the questioning did not appear to correlate with the contributions. Sen. Orrin Hatch — who has received $15,200 in donations in the past three years, the sixth largest amount — asked purely softball questions. Sen. Booker — who has received $44,025 since 2014, the largest amount — asked some of the toughest questions. While these donations are perfectly legal, perhaps committee members should be required to disclose them at these hearings.
Facebook has just disclosed that its D.C. spending is on the increase. The company just announced that it spent $3.3 million on its U.S. lobbying effort during just the first quarter of 2018. This represents the largest amount that the company has ever spent in one quarter.
The account of popular progressive Instagram model @lilmiquela (1 million followers) was supposedly “hacked” last week by popular pro-Trump instagram model @bermudaisbae (64k followers). While details around the hack are hazy, a photo of the models together suggests that the event was coordinated. Instagram says “there’s no indication that the account in question was compromised.”
Yes, but: Neither model is real, although one is verified by Instagram. They are computer-generated imagery (CGI) models with massive followings and in some cases have racked up real advertising deals and music profiles. (Music by @lilmiquela is listed on Spotify and Apple Music.)