Here we go again: tech executives have found themselves in front of Congress.
On Wednesday, execs from Apple, Google, Twitter, AT&T, and Charter Communications came before a Senate Commerce Committee to once more discuss mishandling consumer data and concerns over privacy rights. Congress made its intentions clear — it wants to pass federal rules on how tech companies are allowed to handle private consumer data.
It’s easy to imagine that this hearing might have gone the same way as the five that came before it — under-informed congresspeople ask softball questions, tech company execs back-pedal, question-dodge, and answer vaguely whenever federal regulation comes up.
But this time, things were different. Leaders from prominent tech companies like Apple and Amazon have stated their support for federal regulations that would protect the privacy of user data the companies collect.
Bud Tribble, a vice president at Apple and leader of the company’s privacy software efforts said: “We believe that privacy is a fundamental human right, which should be supported by both social norms and the law,” according to Bloomberg.
Other tech execs followed suit — albeit in more equivocal terms. At Wednesday’s hearing, Amazon’s vice president Andrew DeVore said the company would agree to federal regulations, but warned of “possible unintended consequences” of strong state law, according to Canadian newspaper the National Post. DeVore fears that strong privacy laws could end up defining personal data as far too all-encompassing, stifling innovation.
On it’s face, the shift seems surprising. But these companies might have a different motive than protecting their users’ privacy rights. Silicon Valley holds considerable power over Congress. Part of the reason for Wednesday’s hearing was for Congress to ask tech execs for advice on how to regulate the tech industry, according to the Department of Commerce’s website.
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