Big Tech had better get used to some oversight in aftermath of


Wednesday was less intense, but the politicians’ anger at big tech was still very much on display.Mark Royland, an information security executive at Amazon Web Service, was repeatedly asked questions he couldn’t answer.“If I connect my Amazon account to Facebook, what information and I sharing between the two platforms?” U.K. Conservative MP Damian Collins asked.“I’m not aware of any way you do connect Facebook to Amazon,” Royland answered.“So you’re saying you can’t do it? You can’t connect your Facebook and Amazon accounts?” Collins followed up.“As far as I know, that’s true. I’ll follow up to make sure that’s true,” Royland repeated.Three minutes later, Collins was following to point out that Royland was wrong, citing Amazon’s website.“It says ‘How do I connect my Facebook account to Amazon?’ This is from Amazon.com,” Collins said.“So I’ll just ask again, if you do that, what sort of data are you sharing between the two platforms?”Royland said he didn’t know.Geist said that even if the committee meeting was heavy on political grandstanding, the international co-operation could lead to numerous countries — Canada included — experimenting with different tactics for regulating the big tech companies, and then sharing what works best.That was an idea echoed by Aaron Shull, managing director and general counsel for the Centre for International Governance Innovation. Shul noted that all three parties were largely aligned on the need to regulate companies like Google and Facebook.“What we’re talking about is regulating a segment of our economy and doing it in a way that keeps the best interests of Canadians in mind,” Shul said.“I also think that it’ll make Canada regulate or govern this space in a really sound way, because it’ll be driven by policy and not politics.” If there was one overwhelming takeaway from this week’s hearings before the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy in Ottawa, it’s that the days of big tech operating largely free of regulatory scrutiny appear to be over.Legislators from all three of Canada’s major parties — along with others from around the world — made it known that they’re fed up with the privacy issues, anti-competitive behaviour and the sense that the largest technology companies are more powerful than governments.“If we take away a little bit of the grandstanding of the grand committee — because there’s certainly some element of that — the reality is that the conversation taking place is far different than the one that would’ve taken place a year or two ago,” said Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in internet and e-commerce law.“The companies tended to project a little bit that they’re in a conversation with politicians, and the politicians feel that this isn’t a conversation, this a regulatory hearing, and you’re required to follow the law, and not have a conversation about following it.” Terence Corcoran: Politicians try bullying Big Tech into doing their censorship dirty work Jim Balsillie : ‘Data is not the new oil – it’s the new plutonium’ Artificial intelligence is at the heart of online toxicity, Grand Committee hears Facebook Inc. was public enemy No. 1 for the politicians assembled in Ottawa, but over the course of three days the anger sprawled to include Amazon Inc. and its Alexa voice assistant and Microsoft Corp.’s ownership of LinkedIn. Even Apple Inc. came under fire, with one U.K. lawmaker questioning whether the iPhone maker should allow the Facebook app onto its phones.Related Stories:Facebook’s Zuckerberg says Warren as U.S. president would be bad for techU.S., U.K. urge Facebook not to encrypt messages as they fight child abuse, terrorism“Now, Facebook has done your industry a lot of damage. Why do you continue to do business with them?” U.K. Labour MP Ian Lucas asked a representative from Apple.“You present yourself as the good guys, but you’re facilitating the bad guys through the use of your hardware.”The committee was assembled with politicians from a dozen countries Canada, the U.K., Germany, Morocco, Mexico and Singapore.It had hoped to hear from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, and when the two executives failed to show up Tuesday, MPs issued an open summons to parliament, which will be served if either of them sets foot in Canada in the future.Across several days politicians heard about the dangers of machine intelligence, the use of social media by dictators to intimidate dissent, data privacy, data harvesting, and a raft of other policy issues.On Tuesday lower-ranked Facebook officials endured a barrage of aggressive questions and browbeating from politicians collectively incensed by the drumbeat of privacy scandals swirling around the social media giant.… it’ll make Canada regulate or govern this space in a really sound way, because it’ll be driven by policy and not politicsAaron Shull, managing director, general counsel, Centre for International Governance Innovation

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