The Political Theater Behind Privacy Protection of State of the Union Data

1 year ago
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There is a credibility deficit on Capitol Hill when it comes to antitrust and technology, even as the pressure to act continues to mount. And Democrats in the Senate trust Speaker McCarthy for one thing: defend American-created monopolies.

“I think the sentiment is there, but we’ve had a hard time getting Republicans to support legislation in this area,” said Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat.

Republicans in the House of Representatives may see common ground with Biden’s tough new approach to tech, but that’s not Congressional kumbaya – and the rest of Biden’s vision for the State of the Union, at least on the surface, has been presented by Republicans as a long list of reasons never not work with Biden, despite their common technical adversaries. “Tonight, we saw Joe Biden talking about unity in the same breath, followed by attacks on Republicans,” says Republican Congresswoman Kat Cammack of Florida. “To me, it just shows that he’s not serious about doing something for the benefit of the American people.”

Having brushed aside much of the president’s agenda, Cammack admits there was one bright spot. She calls Biden’s stern treatment of Silicon Valley “reassuring.”

“We have a really big problem when it comes to our personal data being collected without a warrant, sold without our permission, and it’s time to put people’s data and privacy back in their hands,” Cammack said. “So I was excited to hear it, but it’s a long way between now and then.”

Of course, there is a long road ahead, but members of the House are only granted short two-year periods of service, and the sprint to 2024 has already begun. Pomp and solemnity were the dress code of last night, even if some had other reminders. But now the focus is on lawmaking, and that, especially on the eve of presidential elections, means bombing and blaming.

In recent years, both Democrats and Republicans have failed to put up barriers to the Silicon Valley donor class, even as both sides continue to decry the very tech sector that Washington politicians refuse to regulate while U.S. data is mined and given to law enforcement. authorities. or sold to other third parties. Hot air and deflated rhetoric are not suitable for this 118th Congress, according to Cammack.

“To be honest, I don’t think we have a choice,” says Cammack.

“We have a divided Congress and Republicans in the House of Representatives are serious about protecting the data of consumers, Americans, and I think the Democrats are too. The trick is to draft a bill that will not only survive Congress, but avoid a veto when it hits its table. So this will be where the rubber meets the road.”

Technical policy is different from other sensitive issues. They are bipartisan at the same time—everyone has grievances about big tech—but they also stubbornly adhere to Washington’s rigid partisan models. That’s why the enthusiastic rhetoric goes so far, even if the distrust seems endless. Hence, the details are often the devil.

“These are hard conversations. We all value privacy. We all want to protect our children,” said North Dakota Senator Kevin Kramer, speaking on behalf of many of his Republican colleagues. “But we also like free enterprise. We love innovation. I always think it’s better to break down barriers to competitors than to regulate, so to speak, actors in the business.”

Senators tend to be slightly older than their House of Representatives counterparts (according to Pew Research, averaging 7.4 years older, to be exact). In recent years, the octogenarian members of the Chamber have proven themselves Silicon Valley jokebut times are changing, at the speed of the Senate.

All five Republicans who took seats in the Senate in November are bullish on Big Tech. While it’s unclear how quickly — or successfully — they’ll educate their anti-regulation Republican elders, Silicon Valley critics in Congress say Biden was wise to focus on protecting children’s privacy. This message resonates everywhere, even on Speaker McCarthy’s Capitol Hill.

“But this issue of addressing certain messages to our children, using technology to gather data and persuade their habits or exploit their habits, is really very unnerving in this modern age,” Kramer says. “I think a lot of us traditionalists have to struggle a bit with our core individualism, with some protection.”

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