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My mother is such a lovely woman. She’d walk from Maine to DC to get to me if she had to. She also is wildly longwinded and can beat a topic to death like she’s putting out a grease fire with her word count. We've been talking about the risk microwaves pose to a person's health for 36 years. Listen, I don’t mean to do that here. 

But hear me out. Privacy and antitrust are intertwined now. And things are about to get messy. 

Last week, I told you about the Federal Trade Commission’s case against Facebook. While it’s an antitrust case, the idea is that the companies amassing the most personal data have the most market power. This week, the news indicates a regulatory trend in that direction. 

First, the Federal Trade Commission voted last week to change its rules to regulate tech giants more effectively. Technically, the vote was to change the agency’s rulemaking procedure, which the FTC has characterized as “red tape,” handicapping its ability to bring cases. It responds to a recent court ruling that the FTC can’t get refunds for consumers who’ve been harmed. Reframing the requirements will allow it to create new rules to harness the potential damage done to consumers when companies step outside the lines. 

And, as mentioned before, antitrust-champion Lina Khan’s new position as FTC chair, combined with these new procedures, should only bolster the potential for effective enforcement that examines the role massive databases of personal data has on cornering the market. 

If you need more convincing that the antitrust and privacy enforcement spheres are marrying, look to EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s warning to Apple this week that it shouldn’t use privacy and security concerns as an excuse to gate-keep on its App Store. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said the company wouldn’t allow users to incorporate apps outside its store. After all, Apple can’t vet those apps; it can’t vouch that they won’t compromise your device somehow. But Vestager isn’t having it. She thinks that’s the company’s covert effort to eliminate competition. 

This could be good news for small-and-medium size companies. While Apple outlaws certain companies from its store and Google plans to eliminate third-party cookies within its Chrome browser, it could become increasingly difficult for smaller startups to access the market. Or perhaps it’s true that with third parties come added risks. 

What do you think?

We’re going to talk about this and more on our next Twitter Spaces chat on July 8 at 1 p.m. Pacific, 4 p.m. Eastern. Join from your phone as a listener or a speaker, whatever you prefer. I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Enjoy reading, and I'll see you next week!

FTC vote could poise agency to more easily strong-arm big tech

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved a rule-making process that aims to make it easier to regulate companies for privacy violations, The Wall Street Journal reports. The agency voted 3-2 to change how it creates new rules for unfair or deceptive business practices under the FTC Act. Several of the votes last week “suggest the FTC will take a more muscular approach to consumer protection under the Biden administration by probing large technology companies and other firms,” the report states. Read Story

Maine passes toughest facial recognition law in the US

The state of Maine has passed the most stringent facial recognition law in the nation, The Verge reports. Last week, the state passed a law prohibiting government use of facial recognition technology except in rare cases or for fraud prevention purposes. The law eliminates loopholes that allowed police access to facial recognition images, such as asking partner agencies to run searches for them. Read Story

Judge greenlights Facebook lawsuit over ‘rampant’ data collection

A judge in Amsterdam has ruled privacy litigation against Facebook in the Netherlands can proceed. The Data Privacy Foundation and Consumentenbond can bring their 2019 case over Facebook’s “rampant collection of internet users’ data.” The case, which alleges Facebook doesn’t have a legal basis for processing all of that data, will be heard in October, TechCrunch reports. Read Story

Judge says Google must face voice-recording lawsuit 

A U.S. federal judge decided Google must face most of the lawsuit alleging the company illegally recorded and shared users’ private conversations, Reuters reports. The class action accuses Google of recording when a user accidentally triggered Google Assistant and sharing those keywords for targeted advertising. Read Story

Privacy watchdog’s work on secret surveillance program a failure, member says 

A board member who oversees privacy and civil liberties has criticized its work about a secret National Security Agency surveillance-related program, The New York Times reports. Travis LeBlanc, a former chair of the Federal Communications Commission, released a statement on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s classified study on the program, indicating it was “shoddy and a missed opportunity,” the report states. Read Story

EU tech chief warns Apple against using privacy concerns as competition blocker

Europe’s technology chief has warned Apple against using privacy and security concerns to avoid competition on its App Store, Reuters reports. Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recently said Apple wouldn’t allow users to install competitor software from outside the App Store to protect them. But Margrethe Vestager said she shares Cook’s concerns, but they can’t be “a shield against competition.” Read Story


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