Regulating Facebook may be easier said than done

Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 5:49 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are facing more pressure to update internet regulations after a Facebook whistleblower accused the company of ignoring problems it knows it’s causing in the world.

But the process might not be swift or imminent, said Dave Hatter, a cybersecurity consultant with InTrustIT based in Cincinnati.

“It is a tricky conundrum,” he said.

He believes more oversight is necessary, especially when it comes to user data that is central to their business model. Companies rely on people’s data to tailor their algorithms toward someone’s overall experience on a platform in an effort to keep them connected longer.

“They’re making enormous amounts of money off it,” Hatter said. “There’s no incentive for them to stop doing that at this point.”

Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower who testified in Congress Tuesday, told lawmakers she doesn’t think breaking up companies like Facebook is the right solution.

“If you split Instagram and Facebook apart, it’s likely that most advertising dollars will go to Instagram and Facebook will continue to be this Frankenstein that’s altering and endangering lives around the world, only now there won’t be money to fund it,” Haugen said. “So, I think oversight and finding collaborative solutions with Congress is going to be key because these systems will continue to exist even if broken up.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously called for increased regulations and doubled down on his thoughts in a note to employees Tuesday night.

But Hatter said he’s skeptical of regulations that tech companies like Facebook and Google might support and could help craft.

Plus, if Congress does eventually try to crack down on big tech, he worries they might be too late.

“The pace of this is moving so quickly that even people who work in the industry are having a hard time keeping up with it.”

He praised Apple’s move to go against the grain of the industry when it comes to privacy. The company’s new products and software updates are meant to enhance the privacy of a user. Notably, one tool gives users the option to decline an app’s request to track their data.

More companies might have to step in, Hatter said, in an effort to allow the free market to curb the industry’s issues.

But without some oversight, he said Haugen’s concerns might not get addressed and the current social media business model will remain unchanged.

“It’s designed to feed the beast and keep you going because they make more money that way. I think until people realize that, and when we have more laws around privacy, I just don’t know how it can be fixed. These are giant machines. They’re rolling along and they’re making enormous amounts of money.”

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