Time to regulate Silicon Valley

By December 20, 2018First Amendment

Turns out Silicon Valley’s censorship of conservative voices is just the tip of the iceberg.

Now we learn that Facebook allowed third parties such as Spotify, Netflix, Microsoft’s Bing, Amazon and hundreds of other companies to access consumers’ personal data — even the ability to view your private messages.

An appalling breach of trust to say the least. It’s no wonder Facebook’s stock is down 20 percent this year.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported, “Facebook also allowed Spotify, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada to read, write and delete users’ private messages, and to see all participants on a thread — privileges that appeared to go beyond what the companies needed to integrate Facebook into their systems, the records show.”

Additionally Facebook allowed some of its partners access to your friend list, contact information and other sensitive data unbeknownst to consumers. “In all, the deals described in the documents benefited more than 150 companies — most of them tech businesses, including online retailers and entertainment sites, but also automakers and media organizations,” The New York Times reported. “Their applications sought the data of hundreds of millions of people a month, the records show. The deals, the oldest of which date to 2010, were all active in 2017. Some were still in effect this year.”

Can anyone say regulation?

As a first step, Congress must pass legislation to protect consumers. In a statement to the Herald, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey said, “Voluntary standards are not enough; we need rules on the books that all online companies abide by that protect Americans and ensure accountability.”

Markey, a ranking Democrat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, has been on the front lines when it comes to safeguarding privacy. Last April he submitted a privacy bill of rights legislation known as the CONSENT Act that would require the Federal Trade Commission  to establish privacy protections for customers of online providers such as Facebook and Google. Markey was also one of the first lawmakers to urge Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress last spring following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Seeing the widespread abuses coming out of Silicon Valley, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle must work together to protect our rights. That includes not just privacy rights but also protecting free speech rights being trampled on daily by arrogant tech executives making billions in Palo Alto on the backs of consumers.

Enough is enough.

About Adriana Cohen

Adriana Cohen is host of the “Adriana Cohen Show” heard Wednesdays at noon on Boston Herald Radio. Follow her on Twitter @AdrianaCohen16.