New in the Washington Post today, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) sent a letter to FTC Chairman Simons this morning calling on the agency to get tougher with tech giants, specifically Google and Facebook. Critical of the FTC’s lack of enforcement, Senator Hawley’s letter urges the FTC to investigate the companies’ rampant privacy abuses or call on Congress for support. 

The letter to Chairman Simons comes one day ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about online privacy and regulation. A copy of the letter can be found here.

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“GOP Sen. Josh Hawley slams ‘toothless’ federal response to privacy abuses at Facebook and Google”

Washington Post

By Tony Romm

March 11, 2019

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley on Monday issued a rare rebuke of the government agency that oversees Facebook, Google and other tech giants, charging that regulators had “failed” to protect consumers and their personal data from abuse. 

In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, the Missouri lawmaker urged the agency’s leaders to take a more aggressive stand toward Silicon Valley, starting with a series of investigations into tech companies for violating their users’ privacy repeatedly over the past year.

Hawley said there is “substantial evidence” that Facebook had broken a 2011 agreement with the FTC that settled an earlier probe into its privacy practices — a breach that could trigger steep federal fines. The GOP senator also faulted Facebook for its earlier efforts to monitor kids’ and adults’ app usage through a tool that was loaded onto iPhones in a way that angered Apple.

With Google, meanwhile, Hawley charged that the search giant had “consistently misinformed users about its use of geolocation data,” at times collecting that information from Android smartphones even when device owners thought they had disabled the tracking of their whereabouts.

In response to these and other high-profile privacy mishaps, Hawley said the FTC so far “has been toothless,” and he urged the agency to use all the power at its disposal to probe big tech companies — or tell Congress if it’s outmatched and needs help.

"For too long our nation has put off accounting for the price we paid in return for the benefits of the online platforms that now dominate American culture and industry,” Hawley wrote to FTC Chairman Joe Simons, a fellow Republican. 

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