October 23, 2019 | The American Prospect
“We need to start thinking not just about ticky-tack privacy rules, but what’s the reason why companies invade our privacy? And one of those reasons is the behavioral advertising model … it’s often manipulative. So we have to think about how these businesses are incentivized and structured if we want to get to the root cause of massive surveillance in our economy today.”
So declared FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra at a hearing on online platforms and market power last week. Chopra, who’s earned a reputation as a crusader in his short term thus far, was opening the door to a far deeper conversation about Big Tech than one usually hears in Washington, even in the midst of the so-called “techlash.”
October 07, 2019 | The American Prospect
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage giant, is testing underwriting software from fintech firm ZestFinance. A creation of ex-Google executive Douglas Merrill, ZestFinance claims to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to spot trends in a borrower’s record that traditional lending models miss. This supposedly allows more credit to flow to borrowers who need and can afford it, allowing Freddie to issue more mortgages.
September 16, 2019
Washington is awash with proposals for a new regulatory agency centered on Silicon Valley. Often lost in that important conversation is the fact that the executive branch already has some positions with a direct focus on the technology sector, though they are limited in scope and scattered across the alphabet-soup of agencies. Perhaps no tech-focused bureaucrat has the president’s ear quite like the Chief Technology Officer. The CTO is the White House’s top advisor on anything to do with technology and innovation, tasked with explaining the latest developments and guiding the thinking of the most powerful politician on earth.
September 11, 2019
The FTC’s pittance of a settlement with Google over serious violations of children’s privacy laws came and went through the news cycle with little more than a shrug from the public last month. That’s understandable; folks following Silicon Valley’s relationship with Washington right now are singularly focused on the concurrent state and federal-level antitrust inquiries into the biggest four tech companies, Google included. Moreover, as I wrote in the American Prospect yesterday, Google shields itself particularly well from prying progressive eyes, thanks to a combination of think tank donations, overtures to Democratic elites, and just offering highly functional products whose creepy surveillance downsides are little understood by consumers. But this is the Revolving Door Project, so we couldn’t let a corporate giveaway go by without looking at the personnel behind it. And as the aphorism, sometimes attributed to Mark Twain, goes: “history never repeats itself, but it often rhymes.”
September 10, 2019 | The American Prospect
Big Tech is facing an overdue crisis, but not all Big Tech companies are created equal. It’s useful to compare and contrast two of the biggest players at the center of these investigations: Facebook and Google.
Both have received constant negative press for the last few years, ranging from the stories on the Cambridge Analytica bombshell to Google’s non-stop internal chaos. Both received slaps on the wrist from the Federal Trade Commission, but both are now facing federal and state-level antitrust investigations.
Yet only one has become a full-blown bad guy to the Democratic party.
September 05, 2019
Facebook fulfilled an old promise last month in the most Facebook way possible: by sounding nice on paper and glossing over the details. Their new privacy tools are a laughably inefficient and insufficient set of measures, because fundamentally, they’re not trying to actually solve the stated problem: Facebook’s surveillance-based business model. It’s more proof that forcing individuals to protect themselves from the abuses of giant corporations is a cruel fantasy. This collective problem will require a collective solution. It’s about time regulators stepped in to do something about it.
July 30, 2019 | BuzzFeed News
You might think Big Tech is facing an existential reckoning in Washington, based on recent congressional hearings with Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google. Add in Facebook’s $5 billion Federal Trade Commission settlement and the Trump administration pursuing antitrust inquiries into Big Tech while “looking into” Peter Thiel’s accusation that Google has been treasonously collaborating with China and it begins to sound consequential.
But if you look elsewhere — to the fundraising totals released by presidential candidates this month, and perhaps even to this week’s presidential debates — you can glimpse the seeds of the industry’s political revival.
July 28, 2019 | The Daily Beast
Facebook and Equifax Scammed Customers — and Revolving-Door Corporate Lawyers Made Sure They Got Off Easy
Last week, the Federal Trade Commission made clear that dishonestly undermining Americans’ privacy can remain a part of a successful corporation’s business plan. The commission closed its investigations into the two most prominent corporate data breaches in recent memory. The Equifax hack and Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal investigations have yielded back-to-back out-of-court settlements that are all bark, no bite.
July 22, 2019
The Revolving Door Project’s mission is to scrutinize the nexus of corporate power and the executive branch. In the United States, two agencies within the executive branch have the power to seek to break up a company: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Antitrust Division. That is why it is important that we research any entanglements undermining the FTC and DOJ Antitrust’s commitment to serving the public interest.