Senate To Question Google, Amazon On Consumer Privacy Protections

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In short: The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will question a number of Silicon Valley giants and major telecom companies on consumer privacy protections later this month, Capitol Hill said Wednesday. The hearing on “Examining Safeguards for Consumer Data Privacy” will take place on September 26 and host officials from Google, Amazon, Apple, Twitter, AT&T, and Charter Communications.

Background: The new hearing takes place shortly after the Senate Intelligence Committee grilled largely the same actors on election security, with Google being likely to come under extra scrutiny due to the fact it declined to attend the last gathering, much to the displeasure of U.S. lawmakers. The move may be related to recent reports about the Trump administration pushing for a legislative framework regulating consumer privacy, though it’s still unclear what kind of protections the current government might ask for and whether it already discussed the matter with the lawmakers in charge of passing bills. All representatives of the aforementioned companies will be given the opportunity to discuss options for doing a better job at preserving the privacy of their users, the committee said.

The impact: Mark Zuckerberg’s grilling over the Cambridge Analytica scandal from earlier this year may be a good indication of what to expect from the new hearing, especially given how Facebook officials are absent from the list of witnesses, suggesting the Senate committee is primarily looking to retreat some old ground in regards to general digital privacy concerns. The episode may serve as a prelude to some concrete legislative actions on the privacy front, though Capitol Hill is still unlikely to enact anything that’s even remotely strict as GDPR that the European Union put into effect in late May. Any legislative initiative meant to regulate user privacy could also fall victim to partisanship, depending on the results of the upcoming mid-terms taking place on November 6.