Facebook, Twitter, Google and other tech companies are about to face some close scrutiny from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight over the tech and telecom industries. According to Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), it’s all in the name of consumer protection. Hearings are currently scheduled for November, but Walden sees this as a long-term process.
Specifically, the committee is interested in how exactly these companies’ algorithms work, and how they protect privacy. “We will be taking a more expansive look at the online experience to ensure safety, security, and an unfiltered flow of information,” said Walden in a post on Medium. The end goal is to give consumers more understanding of and power over how companies use their personal information.
There isn’t one single inspiration for this investigation, though Walden does cite the Equifax breach in his post as an example of “the staggering amount of personal information changing hands online.” The committee’s goal is to make sure that algorithms and personal information sharing practices between companies don’t violate people’s safety or their choices as a consumer.
Further down the road, Walden plans on hearings centering on identity verification and steps people can take once they know their personal data has been leaked. We all know that tech companies mine our data; it will be interesting to see what comes out of these hearings, and if a broader framework with consumer protections could be a result.