Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), a Republican leader on the US House of Representatives subcommittee responsible for a number of powerful big-tech antitrust bills, suggests in an interview that privacy is a competition problem.
Talking with The edge In an interview published Tuesday, Buck offered his thoughts on last month’s profit margin on a six-pack designed to control powerful tech companies.
Some parts of the package impose limitations on anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions, while other facets call for improved data portability and prohibit companies from selling their own products on the platforms they control. The legislation passed through the House Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support and will be considered by the full House of Representatives.
Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are the main targets of the package and, unsurprisingly, each company has voiced public and private disapproval of the legislation. Apple CEO Tim Cook, for example, personally called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to explain why sections of the six proposals would stifle innovation and, more specifically, harm consumers by breaking Apple services.
While the government disagrees with Big Tech on some issues, it appears that Buck agrees on the privacy issue, or at least Apple’s opinion on the matter.
“The way to promote privacy is to have competition in the market and allow competitors like DuckDuckGo to say that they will not sell our data and that you can choose to use that search engine,” said Buck. “Or you can use Google’s search engine, and on page 23 of your user agreement, you can agree to allow them to sell your information.”
Buck suggests that certain privacy issues will be resolved organically, without government intervention.
“Consumers will demand that privacy be considered, and some of them don’t care. Some of them will, but the market will address these concerns,” he said.
According to a recent report by analytics firm Branch Metrics, less than a third of iOS users have opted for ad tracking after Apple debuted App Tracking Transparency on its mobile platform. The feature is designed to better inform customers about which apps are tracking them on the web and other apps, and displays a feature that prevents apps from accessing a user’s Advertiser Identifier (IDFA) tag.
When asked how lawmakers could include language to implement stronger privacy protections, Buck said, “How do you implement that? That’s the problem. You don’t want the government to come in and say that this kind of speech isn’t something that can sell. “
“There is the privacy of cybersecurity, where we want to protect ourselves from Russian hackers or anyone who is there. But there is also the privacy that an individual decides to give up. That is an individual right,” he said.
Apple has made consumer privacy a central pillar of its product ecosystem. Along with source hardware and software protections, the company maintains policies that extend to companies doing business on the App Store. In December, Apple ordered developers to display privacy “nutrition labels” in an attempt to increase transparency about the data collected.
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