It seems almost every week there are new revelations about Facebook’s data use and sharing policies. The Federal Trade Commission is currently investigating Facebook for a potential consent decree violation related to the release of user data to Cambridge Analytica. The new allegations of data misuse in the New York Times this week may also be a violation of the consent decree. They are at least worthy of FTC investigation. And the cache of previously sealed litigation documents published by a British Member of Parliament earlier this month seem to indicate that Facebook may have been strategically withholding this valuable data from “strategic competitors” such as upstart Vine. Taken together, the two stories paint a frightening picture. Was Facebook granting access to private user data to cement its market position, offering it up to the powerful and wielding it as a cudgel against potential competitors? At the close of the current investigation, the FTC should demand remedies that protect users’ privacy while encouraging competition on the Facebook platform and against Facebook itself.
One of the first lessons I learned as an advocate at Public Knowledge? “Regulation” and “rulemaking authority” are dirty words in too many parts of Capitol Hill. This is perhaps unsurprising to people who have worked on tech and telecom policy longer than I have. Or, for that matter, to people who work on environmental policy or any number of other issues. Nonetheless, this is my case for why I am pro-agency rulemaking authority, and you should be too.
The Federal Trade Commission is hosting a series of historic public hearings on the future of antitrust law that begin today. Gene Kimmelman, the President of Public Knowledge, is participating in the hearings. To continue these efforts to examine developments in competition throughout the economy, the FTC should launch two important studies to examine: 1) the impact of big data on platform power, and 2) the impact of consolidation on America’s workers. Americans are concerned about competition, but we don’t have the information we need in order to know whether it is stronger agency enforcement or possibly other policy tools that are needed to address these concerns.
Public Knowledge welcomes Charlotte Slaiman, Policy Counsel, to our team to focus on competition issues and digital platforms. She holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law and a B.A. in Government from the University of Virginia.