“People have figured out that when they're online and they're on one of these social media services, they are the product,” said Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who is one of the lawmakers leading the charge for more privacy and data security. “They're being data mined. They're being tracked. They're being followed.”
As tech giants face growing scrutiny in Congress over privacy, censorship and antitrust concerns, Blackburn who co-chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee Tech Task Force with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is turning up the heat and began the task force’s first meetings this month.
“The consumer needs the ability to protect that information in the virtual space, just as they do in the physical space,” Blackburn said. “People need the tool box to protect themselves and their information.’
Last week, the Senate task force had talks with privacy experts from four companies: Snap (SNAP), Match (MTCH), Salesforce (CRM) and Mozilla. Blackburn also recently met with Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.
“We are going to drill down on these issues,” she said, adding that privacy and data security are at the top of the list for her constituents. “This is something I hear about on a daily basis,” she said. Particularly from women.
Moms are most concerned
“Many times the questions come from moms,” she said. “They are concerned about privacy provisions.” She pointed to one mother she spoke to who was upset by the volume and content of emails she was getting from apps that her child had downloaded. The mom’s email address was tied to those apps.
Blackburn points out this isn’t uncharted territory for Congress or tech companies. In 1993 and 1994, video game executives were called to Congress to testify about violent and sexist content in their games. After much back and forth, a ratings system was born and games were given age appropriate classifications. That system remains today.
“That is something we need to look at for apps,” said Blackburn.
“In the case of Snapchat, they say they're appropriate for ages 12 and above,” she said. “But if you look at what comes onto that discover feed, if you look at the Snap Map that actually reveals location, you know that is not appropriate for a 12-year-old child.”
Joanna Campione is a producer at Yahoo Finance