August 29, 2022
Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Policy! Today, I’m looking at what it means for abortion data that sometimes it’s the lawmakers who lobby the tech companies instead of the other way around. Plus, an Apple antitrust suit could be in the works, and the data broker industry is going all in on K Street amid the federal privacy push.
Despite its relative silence on the most contentious issue in American politics, the social media industry has finally revealed it can be pushed by Democrats in power to do more to protect people seeking abortions. Now the question is what else lawmakers, state attorneys general and others should ask for.
After the Supreme Court cleared the way for states to criminalize abortion, much of the popular conversation revolved around what users could do to protect their data, and whether tech companies could suddenly start ignoring valid legal demands.
Quietly, though, in recent weeks, the companies have allowed themselves to be lobbied, a little, by Democrats — and they’ve ignored some threats from Republicans.
What social media and communications tech companies need to do is not new, as Corynne McSherry, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s legal director, told me.
And yes, even if they have to comply with valid warrants, companies should also start making reforms around how they handle law enforcement demands for information related to abortion information, McSherry and others have said.
Tech companies aren’t going to do everything Democratic lawmakers ask, and the business models of Google and Meta mean that even if there’s someday a comprehensive privacy law, they will never stop being hungry for our data. They’re going to face swift pushback from the GOP too. But if Democrats want to take advantage of the realization they may actually hold on to some power next year, there’s a lot they may want to remind Big Tech that they still care about.— Ben Brody (email | twitter)
The Department of Justice is preparing to sue Apple, POLITICO reports. The potential lawsuit, which is still being deliberated and could remain under wraps for months, would likely focus on the App Store and Apple payments system. If the DOJ does eventually file, the lawsuit would represent the first Big Tech antitrust case initiated under the Biden administration.
Data brokers are upping their lobbying spend to push for a more palatable federal privacy bill. The five most prominent brokers increased their collective lobbying spend by 11% — representing a $180,000 increase — in the second quarter of 2022 compared to a year prior, per POLITICO. The House version of the American Data Privacy and Protection Act would preempt California’s Consumer Privacy Act, which has become a key source of contention among lawmakers.
More EV battery production is shifting stateside. Honda and LG Energy announced plans to build a $4.4 billion factory for the production of EV batteries. The factory will be built in Ohio, where Honda has long operated an automotive plant. LG Energy also has an existing U.S. facility operating with GM.
California’s state legislature is set to pass children’s online safety regulations this week. The California Age Appropriate Design Code, which would go into effect in 2024, places limits on features such as video autoplay for children online. Tech companies have complained the regulation is vague enough to threaten their algorithms and free speech, but, Axios reports, behind the scenes, recent changes made the proposal at least somewhat more workable for the firms.
How cybercrime is going small time: Cybercrime is often thought of on a relatively large scale. Massive breaches lead to painful financial losses, bankrupting companies and causing untold embarrassment, splashed across the front pages of news websites worldwide.
The FTC is suing data broker Kochava over its collection of location-based data from mobile phones, alleging the practice enables “others to identify individuals” and risks “exposing them to threats of stigma, stalking, discrimination, job loss, and even physical violence.” The agency contends the harm — including the exposure of those who have visited abortion facilities — is both likely and difficult for consumers to avoid. Kochava, citing the impending lawsuit, had previously sued the FTC.
Meta agreed to settle a lawsuit seeking damages for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The in-principle agreement, reached on Friday, might allow former Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg to avoid being deposed.
Protocol’s Tomio Geron is moderating a panel on modernizing payments. Tune in Sept. 8 at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET to hear from Tomio and industry experts about the big changes in America’s payments infrastructure and the challenge of catching up with innovation overseas. Save your spot now.
Move over PayPal Mafia, the Palantir Pack has arrived. Well, I guess Peter Thiel can stay in either case. Anyhow, Protocol’s Biz Carson wrote about how Palantir has produced a disproportionately successful alumni base, including key employees or founders at Affirm, Blend, Handshake, OpenSea and Addepar.
Regulators can close the books on Meta’s crypto wallet as of Thursday. The sunsetting of Novi (previously Libra) represents a significant win for regulators as they actually managed to thwart Meta’s plans to create a global financial network.
15%: That’s how much the time spent gaming on PlayStation decreased in Q1 of this year compared to 2021. Sony CFO Hiroki Totoki attributed gaming time declines to increased opportunities “for users to get out of home as COVID-19 infections have subsided in key markets.”
How cybercrime is going small time: People have been swindled since before man created monetary systems. These aren’t new crimes; just new ways to commit them. But as cybercrime increasingly goes small-time, those on the front lines will need new and more effective ways to fight it.
Suburban office parks are probably among the most reviled spaces in America: People tend to associate them with massive empty parking lots, highway views and paper-pushing companies. But Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund invested $1.1 billion on the purchase of 53 suburban offices, betting that remote work will steer companies to move offices closer to suburban employee enclaves.
Thanks for reading — see you Wednesday!