Looming ‘Privacy Regulations’ May Strengthen FACEBOOKGOOGLE… Members of Congress Who Questioned Zuckerberg Had Received $641,685 From FB

How Looming Privacy Regulations May Strengthen Facebook and Google

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.

Members of Congress Who Questioned Mark Zuckerberg Had Received $641,685 From Facebook

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.

 

BOTS FEUD ON INSTAGRAM…

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.)

  • The case for anonymity online is being tested as regulators, platforms and brands try to wrap their heads around the messy consequences of non-human social media accounts.
  • No one knows exactly who is responsible for these accounts, although @lilMiquela has recently alluded to a robotics and AI firm, Brud, as being the origin of her creation and @bermudaisBae says she’s made by an AI company called Cain Intelligence, which says on its website that it openly endorsesDonald Trump.

Why it matters: These accounts are often — by Instagram and the Federal Trade Commission’s standards — considered to be commercial enterprises that are subject to the same advertising disclosure laws as real models.

  • These accounts sometimes don’t adequately disclose sponsorship information, which makes rules hard to enforce. @lilMiquela, for example, credits certain hair care products for her “silky” locks, but none of her posts are labeled as an “ad,” if these endorsements even are ads.

  • It can be difficult for the FTC and other regulators to crack down on these fake personalities, because their origins are difficult to track.

  • “The FTC might have to start suing people,” says, Consumer Unions Director of Consumer Privacy and Technology Policy Justin Brookman. “But they’re probably nervous about that because their guidelines are based on underlying law that was passed a century ago, which broadly says ‘don’t be deceptive.'”

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