Over the past few years, Europe has seen landmark legislation for online privacy enacted, allowing sweeping rules to curb the dominance of tech giants, and on Friday came close to negotiating a new law to protect its citizens from harmful online content.
For scorers, it’s Europe: three. United States: Zero.
The United States could be the birthplace of the iPhone and the most widely used search engine and social network, and it could also bring the world into the so-called metavars. But global leadership on tech regulations is being carried out by European leaders representing 27 nations with 24 languages, more than 3,000 miles from Washington, who are still unable to agree on basic online security for their 450 million or more citizens.
In the United States, Congress has not passed a single piece of legislation to protect Internet users and curb the power of its technology giants.
It’s not for lack of effort. In 25 years, dozens of federal privacy bills have been proposed and then finally left without bilateral support. With every major hack of a bank or retailer, legislators have introduced data breaches and security bills, all of which have dried up. Speech bills have sunk into the quicksand of biased differences over freedom of expression. And no-confidence bills to reduce the ownership of Apple, Amazon, Google and Meta, Facebook and Instagram are sitting on the sidelines amid fierce lobbying protests.
Only two narrow federal tech laws have been enacted in the last 25 years – one for the privacy of children and the other for exemption from sex-trafficking sites.
“Inertia is a very broad term to describe what has happened in the United States; there is a lack of will, courage and understanding of problems and techniques,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a public interest group. There is no security and no confusion. “
The chances of any law being passed immediately are dim, although at times rules are almost unavoidable because of the way tech touches on many aspects of life. Of all the proposals currently before Congress, a no-confidence bill that would prevent Apple, Alphabet and Amazon from expanding their products over their marketplaces and App Stores compared to their competitors is the best shot.
The bill’s co-author, Senator Amy Klobucher, a Minnesota Democrat, said Democratic leaders had promised to go to the polls by this summer. But even that bill, with bipartisan support, faces ups and downs between many other priorities in Congress and fierce tech lobbying efforts to defeat it.
If history is a guide, the road to US tech regulation will be long. It took decades to regulate the railways with the formation of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887. It took almost 50 years from the first medical reports on the dangers of cigarettes to the regulation of tobacco.
There is no single reason for the mud of progress in Congress. Proposals have been caught up in years-old biased divisions about how to protect customers while encouraging business growth. Then there are the hundreds of tech lobbyists who block the law that could reduce their profits. Even lawmakers sometimes fail to understand the technology they are trying to control, turning their masses around. Failed Takeover in Internet Mimes.
Tom Wheeler, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said tech companies have taken advantage of that knowledge blind spot.
“That’s what I call the ‘Big Con’, where tech companies spin a story that they do magic and if Washington touches their companies with rules they will be responsible for breaking that magic,” he said.
In the vacuum of federal regulations, states have instead created a patchwork of technical regulations. California, Virginia, Utah and Colorado have their own privacy laws. Florida and Texas have passed social media laws aimed at punishing Internet platforms for censoring conservative ideas.
Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, Meta and Microsoft said they support federal rules. But when pressed, some of them have fought for the most permissive versions of the law under consideration. Meta, for example, has pushed for weak federal privacy laws that would override strong laws in states.
Tech’s lobbying power is now on full display in Washington with the threat of Ms.’s no-confidence bill. Klobutcher and Senator Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican. The proposal passed the first hurdle of its vote in January, much to the surprise of the tech industry.
In response, many tech companies have mobilized extensive lobbying and marketing campaigns to defeat the bill. Through a trade group, Amazon claimed in television and newspaper ads that the bill would effectively end its prime membership program. Kent Walker, Google’s chief legal officer, wrote in a blog post that the law would “break” popular products and prevent the company from displaying Google Maps in search results.
Ms. Klobucher said the companies’ claims were exaggerated. She warned that by fighting the proposal, tech companies could choose the worse option out of the two difficult ones.
“They allow Europe to set the agenda on Internet regulation,” she said. Klobuchcher said. “At least we listened to everyone’s concerns and changed our bill.”
The inaction may seem surprising given that Republicans and Democrats are apparently in the public eye on how tech companies have transformed themselves into a global powerhouse.
“Consumers need confidence that their data is secure, and businesses need to know that they can continue to innovate while adhering to strong, efficient national privacy standards,” said Mississippi Republican Senator Roger Wicker. “The United States cannot afford to take the lead on this issue.”
Lawmakers have also forced several tech chief executives, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Metana’s Mark Zuckerberg, to testify before Congress several times in recent years. In some of those televised hearings, lawmakers from both parties have told executives that their companies – with a combined market value of $ 6.4 trillion – are not above government or public liability.
“Some of these companies are countries, not companies,” Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, said in a no-confidence motion in January that they “kill the fields for the truth.”
But so far, the matter has not been translated into the new law. The path to privacy rules provides a clear case study on inactivity records.
Since 1995, Massachusetts Democrat Senator Edward J. Markey has introduced a dozen privacy bills for Internet service providers, drones and third-party data brokers. In 2018, the year Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation came into force, it proposed a bill requiring consumer permission to share or sell data.
Mr. Markey also made two attempts to update and strengthen the Privacy Act for young people, following their 1998 law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
With every effort, industry lobbying groups have seen the bills as detrimental to innovation. Many Republican lawmakers have opposed the proposals, saying they do not balance the needs of businesses.
Mr. Markey said. “We’ve reached the breaking point.”