In March 2018, the world got a wake-up call when news broke that a third-party firm called Cambridge Analytica harvested data from up to 87 million Facebook profiles. Even worse, Facebook learned Cambridge Analytica used the collected data in violation of the social media site’s terms and conditions in 2015, but didn’t alert users.
There are also reports that Facebook did not correctly police third-party companies to ensure they followed the rules. What might it look like if these tech companies were more closely monitored?
England’s House of Lords Weighs In
Lord Clement-Jones, head of England’s House of Lords select committee on A.I., thinks regulations should be connected back to ethics. He acknowledges that whether or not Cambridge Analytica used artificial intelligence to collect data, the extent of the incident shows why it’s so important for people to be aware of what happens to their information.
Due to the lack of regulation, there is a concern of mega-companies getting established in Great Britain and exerting too much power over society. Laws could keep those companies in check and ensure their use of technology doesn’t get out of control. Regarding A.I., Clement-Jones seeks to have an open market.
Panelists Think Regulations Could Hurt Smaller Companies
People who sat on a Technology Policy Institute event panel last month asserted imposing regulation could be harmful to smaller companies that aren’t as well-suited to deal with the requirements as larger firms. They brought up the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as an example of regulatory overreach.
The GDPR is a European Union-wide privacy law in effect as of May 25, 2018. It enforces standards for data use, storage, processing, and exchange. Companies outside the EU that sell things to its residents or monitor their data also fall under the law. The panelists believe that any upcoming regulations for the tech sector must take companies of all sizes into account.
UK Privacy Regulator Connects Regulations to Public Trust
Elizabeth Denham is a privacy regulator in the United Kingdom leading European investigations about what happened in the Facebook scandal. While addressing an annual gathering of data protection experts, Denham called the revelations associated with Facebook’s data blunder “a game-changer in data protection.”
She sees the worth of data, but believes proper regulation of its use could restore public confidence. That’s one of the reasons Denham’s office launched the “Your Data Matters” campaign to educate the public.
States’ Rules in Place Without Nationwide Laws
Ari Waldman, director of the New York Law School’s Innovation Center for Law and Technology, compares technology regulation to state-specific food regulations for things like genetically modified ingredients or cage-free eggs. He says in the absence of Congress passing a nationwide data privacy law, it’ll be up to the states to wade into the regulatory waters.
In the food industry, rather than changing their business operations solely to comply with the laws of one state, some companies — including Smithfield — made company-wide alterations across the board.
Plus, some members of Congress, including Democrat Ro Khanna, think the time is right for national regulation. Congressional members pondered that option numerous times when Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of them after the Cambridge Analytica incident.
Other Efforts to Regulate Tech Around the World
If the United States does decide to regulate the tech industry, it wouldn’t be the first country to make that move. In Germany, regulations let telecommunications companies collect data to stop criminal activities, although those laws are understandably controversial. Cryptocurrency has also come under the regulatory spotlight. Japan’s laws recognize Bitcoin as legal tender, while New York has regulations for virtual currency used for business activities.
The subject of so-called “fake news” has been especially prevalent since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, but it’s drawing attention elsewhere, too. Malaysia legislated against fake news and subsequently fueled a debate whether the law suppresses free speech.
Wi-Fi connected devices that are part of the Internet of Things (IoT) have also not escaped possible regulatory scrutiny. U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan has co-sponsored a bill that would impose minimum security standards for IoT devices, including requiring device manufacturers to disclose known vulnerabilities and make their devices compatible with future security patches. One of the primary arguments against tech regulation is the stifling of innovation. However, people will arguably not be eager and willing to use innovative tech products and services if they don’t feel their data is safe.
By Kayla Matthews