Tech

US needs to catch up with Europe to regulate tech giants like Facebook, congressman says

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Key Points
  • Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, said he was concerned by the U.S.'s lack of tools for dealing with tech companies that fail to prevent the misuse of users' data.
  • Sarbanes said he was unsure whether government bodies like the FCC and FTC "have the kind of dedicated expertise" to deal with data protection and privacy issues.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook, speaks during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The United States is failing to keep up with Europe in regulating technology corporations like Facebook and Google, a congressman told CNBC on Monday.

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, said that he was concerned about the U.S.'s lack of tools for dealing with tech companies that fail to prevent the misuse of users' data.

Facebook has been under fire since it emerged that the data of millions of users was improperly harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that briefly worked for the Donald Trump election campaign.

"I think the U.S. is in a position of needing to catch up," Representative Sarbanes said in a phone interview. Sarbanes said he was unsure whether government bodies like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) "have the kind of dedicated expertise" to deal with data protection and privacy issues.

"I think that Europe's done that better, because there are governmental bodies that are dedicated to this kind of oversight and accountability and making sure they build that capacity and that expertise to be able to keep up," Sarbanes said. "I think that's something that the U.S. should look at potentially as well."

Congressman Sarbanes said he was also concerned by fake news on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election and allegations that misinformation was driven by Russia. Facebook deleted more than 270 pages and accounts associated with Russia's Internet Research Agency, a so-called "troll farm" based in St. Petersburg.

He said that the likes of Google and Twitter were in a similar position to Facebook in terms of the amount of data that is collected from users.

Sarbanes was one of several lawmakers that confronted Facebook's Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg during a committee hearing last month.

Zuckerberg told lawmakers that his own data had been compromised as a result of the scandal and that Facebook failed to notify the FTC about the leak of users' data to Cambridge Analytica. The analytics firm obtained the Facebook data through a quiz app called "This Is Your Digital Life," made by Cambridge University academic Aleksandr Kogan.

Commentators have said that U.S. politicians did not ask the Facebook CEO difficult-enough questions.

In the U.K., Facebook's CTO admitted that the social network did not read the terms of Kogan's app and did not notify the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), Britain's data watchdog, immediately after it learned of the sharing of data with Cambridge Analytica.

Europe is about to introduce a huge data law that could charge companies fines of up to 4 percent of global turnover if they fall foul of the legislation.