Take on Big Tech: Protecting Privacy and Public Discourse

By The New Center — June 5, 2019

We've allowed private companies tremendous influence over our privacy and public discourse, but Washington and the tech industry have yet to settle on a sustainable or sensible framework for how to manage these concerns. This needs to change.


Our Solutions In Brief

1. Federal Legislation to Protect Online Privacy

Comprehensive federal privacy legislation should be enacted to give consumers more control over their personal data, and it should include: a "right to be removed" online; opt-out mechanisms for data sales and third-party data; data collection disclosure; a right to request all personal data collected by tech companies; and prompt data breach notifications.

2. A Federal Privacy Watchdog with Teeth

Congress could remove the restrictions in place on the FTC and restore its rulemaking abilities under the Administrative Procedure Act, and the FTC could reorient itself to prioritize its oversight of the tech industry. Alternatively, a new Federal Data Privacy Commission, unburdened by MagnussonMoss rules and singularly focused on privacy, could take the mantle from the FTC.

3. Toward Real Transparency

At a minimum, the next president should make clear he or she expects large tech companies to agree upon and adhere to common standards that establish a clear, standardized process for reviewing and removing material from online platforms. These standards should include: meaningful notice, an appeals process, regular public reports, and compensation for people who are harmed.

4. Make AI Accountable

Tech companies necessarily use artificial intelligence (AI) to screen the reams of content that exist and are created across their platforms. However, these AI systems are black boxes. Consumers don’t understand how or why decisions are made, and the AI’s decisions are often wrong. We need real standards to make AI—and the companies behind it—accountable.

5. Congress Needs to Get Smart on Tech

Once, Congress had a resource for objective analysis on pressing matters raised by new technologies, the Office of Technology Assessment. The OTA was shuttered in 1995, right before the advent of the modern internet. It needs to be brought back, and the next president should include it in their first budget request to Congress.

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Facts At-A-Glance

  • 1,200+

    Data breaches in the U.S. in 2018

  • 63%

    of all online ad revenue collected by Google and Facebook in 2017

  • 100+

    In five years, Google acquired over 100 companies

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