Opinion | OK, but what should we do with Facebook? I asked the experts.
“At least,” said Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investor who is one of the most vocal critics today, should regulators ban the use of the most intimate data such as health, location, browsing history, and third-party application data. “
Data protection rules are one of the most important ways that European regulators can help curb the impact of social media. Why don’t we hear more about it in America?
I suspect it’s because this is a bigger solution than Facebook. All of the tech giants – even Apple, which has criticized the digital advertising business’s hunger for private data – make billions of dollars off ads, and there are plenty of other companies that have become addicted to ad targeting. When California tried to improve consumer privacy, corporate lobbyists pushed for the rules to be watered down. I’m afraid that Congress wouldn’t fare much better.
Force internal data to be shared
Nathaniel Persily, a professor at Stanford Law School, describes the most fundamental problem facing the Facebook police very well: “At the moment,” wrote Persily, “we don’t even know what we don’t know” about the impact of social media on the world.
Persily suggests piercing the black box before we do anything else. He has drafted a bill that would force large technology platforms to provide outside researchers with a range of data about what users see on the service, how they interact with it, and what information the platform provides to advertisers and governments.
Rashad Robinson, president of civil rights group Color of Change, endorsed another bill, the Algorithmic Justice and Online Platform Transparency Act, which would also require platforms to publish data on how they collect and use personal data across other demographic categories, including race , ethnicity, gender, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability status of users to show whether their systems are used in a discriminatory manner.
Tech companies enjoy secrecy, but apart from their opposition, it’s hard to imagine many of the drawbacks of transparency mandates. Even if we don’t change the way Facebook works, we should at least find out what it does.