US law makers question tech giants’ attitude to privacy

Members of the US House of Representatives queried how the likes of Google and Apple treat users’ privacy.

During a five-hour online appearance before the House’s sub-committee on anti-trust, members gave examples of the tech giants taking actions which would directly benefit themselves while harming competitors.

One case was a 2015 decision by Google to stop allowing third parties buying YouTube ads, forcing them to buy directly from the company itself, on the grounds of protecting the privacy and security of users.

“You’re using privacy as a shield, and what you’re really doing is using it as a cudgel to beat down competition,” Rep Kelly Armstrong (Republican, North Dakota) was quoted as saying by US political news service CNet.

“It’s a great word that people care about, but not when it’s utilised to control more of the marketplace and squeeze out smaller competitors.” 

At the hearing CEO Sundar Pichai responded by saying: “It’s a service we provide to our users. We obviously want to make sure we protect the privacy of our users.”

Rep Lucy McBath (Democrat, Georgia) questioned Apple’s removal of parental control apps in direct competition with Screen Time, which the company introduced in 2018.

“We were concerned, congresswoman, about the privacy and security of kids,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “The technology that was being used at the time was called MDM, and it had the ability to take over the kid’s screen, and a third party could see it and so we were worried about their safety.”

Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, also attended the online hearing.

 


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