U.S. Democratic Senator Al Franken, who is the chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, recently accused Google and Facebook of blatantly disregarding users’ privacy. Franken stated that he believes Americans’ privacy is an antitrust issue and feels that some technology companies have become immune to normal market pressures. Since consumers primarily rely on the free market to govern the actions of large corporations, he hypothesized that market dominance can lead to a relative disregard for consumers’ privacy.
In a speech to the American Bar Association last week, Franken observed that he believes Google and Facebook have become large advertising companies:
“Google and Facebook are, essentially, tremendously innovative and profitable advertising companies. Google, for instance, took in $37.9 billion in revenue last year – $36.5 billion of which was in advertising. These companies’ profitability depends in large part on their ability to target ads to you, which in turn depends in large part on what they know about you.”
Since Google and Facebook primarily offer free services to consumers, Franken argued that the technology company is incentivized to protect the advertiser instead of the consumer that uses their service:
“Accumulating data about you isn’t just a strange hobby for these corporations. It’s their whole business model. And you are not their client. You are their product.”
While many of Franken’s points may be worthy of further discussion, he owes his support to Hollywood and has a past history of opposing technology companies. Recently, Franken supported the Stop Online Piracy Act and currently supports the Senate’s version of the bill (Protect IP).
Do you believe that the free market has become ineffective at regulating companies such as Facebook and Google and that it is time for the government to step in or that consumers have a free choice with regards to the company they choose and that the government should not interfere with the free market?