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Trump officials may be about to bring the hammer down on Facebook and other tech giants

As if Facebook didn’t have enough to worry about, now we have word the Trump administration is working behind the scenes on potential legislation to better protect consumer privacy on the Internet. And that Commerce Dept. officials have been meeting with tech giants like Facebook and Google, as well as such Internet providers as AT&T, ahead of moving forward on any proposal.

The goal appears to be to craft a set of principles for how companies should collect and handle private consumer information, according to reporting from The Washington Post. Which, of course, goes right to the core of how Facebook and Google operate and gives them plenty reason to worry about the direction that the first comprehensive online privacy law could take, should such a thing materialize.

Trump deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters in a statement said that “Through the White House National Economic Council, the Trump Administration aims to craft a consumer privacy protection policy that is the appropriate balance between privacy and prosperity. We look forward to working with Congress on a legislative solution consistent with our overarching policy.”

Worth pointing out, as the WaPo goes on to note, is that there’s no single federal law controlling the way big tech giants collect and monetize data harvested from users. And that it’s also getting increasingly difficult to ignore tougher standards coming out of Europe and elsewhere, especially with missteps Facebook keeps making. Of course, even Facebook’s CEO has conceded that some degree of new regulation may be in order.

Facebook and Google lobbied intensely back in 2012 to block passage of a proposed consumer “bill of rights” focused on online privacy under the Obama administration. Could things be different now?

Momentum is certainly building in this direction. Earlier this summer, for example, California pushed into law the California Consumer Privacy Act, which takes effect in 2020 and is regarded as the toughest such legislation in the country. It lets consumers ask companies who their data has been sold to, among other things.

Facebook’s response to this will be interesting, especially because the company is starting to talk about itself in a whole new light. Maybe even, dare we say it, admitting that it’s becoming an entirely different company.

From a Facebook regulatory filing this week, the company makes two things clear: It acknowledges running out of people to slurp up into its big blue empire. And it’s also going to be increasingly reliant on less lucrative business models. “We will continue to invest in our messaging, video content, and global connectivity efforts, as well as other initiatives that may not have clear paths to monetization,” the filing explains.

Translation: Even Facebook knows that things are changing. Perhaps that includes legislatively, too.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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