On Tuesday night, an investigation revealed TechCrunch that Facebook secretly paid teens to install a VPN that allowed the company to see almost everything they did on their cell phones. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are hounding the tech giants and raising new questions about how the company could evolve in future privacy laws.
"Listening to teenagers is not research and should never be allowed." Sen Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a statement: "Instead of learning its lesson when consumers wanted to be spied on with the supposedly 'private' Onavo VPN app, Facebook renamed the intrusive app and Apple's attempts to Bypassed users.
Blumenthal said he would send letters to Apple and Google to investigate their involvement by hosting the apps.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MI) tweeted : "Wait a minute. Facebook PAID teens to install a monitor on their cell phones without telling them that Facebook has been authorized to spy on them? Some children are only 13 years old. Are you serious? "This is Hawley's first year in the Senate and he has already positioned himself as a conservative voice in the tech sector. At his first Justice Department hearing in January, Hawley condemned President Trump's Attorney General with questions about his position on the regulation of Silicon Valley companies.
Wait a minute. Facebook PAID teens to install a monitor on their cell phones without telling them that Facebook has been authorized to spy on them? Some children are only 13 years old. https://t.co/87MGCk5BeM[19459005-JoshHawley(@HawleyMO) January 30, 2019
Many lawmakers who have voted to condemn Facebook have already proposed their own bills to protect data consumers , One of the only data protection laws ever passed at federal level was written by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). In 2000, the Children's COPPA Act (COPPA) established specific rules that the platforms had to comply with when collecting data from children under the age of 13. In a statement, Markey said, "It's inherently manipulative to exchange teenagers' money for personal information when younger users are not sure how much data they're sharing and how sensitive they are."
This year, both the US Parliament and Senate Commerce Committees plan to hold further technology regulatory hearings. Representative Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), chairing the Energy and Commerce Committee, said data protection will be a priority. Pallone responded to the story of the TechCrunch in which he said : "Parents warn their children against beware of strangers distributing sweets. Obviously, this saying should also apply to Facebook. "
" This is another example of why Americans need a strong, comprehensive privacy law, "Pallone continued.
Warner (D-VA) was a vocal voice in technical regulations last year Report sent Warner a letter to the Facebook boss of Facebook, asking him if he thought that users actually knew how much data they reveal by downloading the app and authorizing their access to the device
"Both in the case of Onavo and the Facebook research project, I have concerns that users have not been adequately informed about the extent of the Facebook data collection and the commercial purposes of this data collection," said Warner, "Facebook's apparent lack of Full transparency towards users – especially in connection with "research efforts", has frustrated me. "
Updated 01/30/19 at 17:02 ET: A line was removed suggesting that a bill sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) would remove COPPA.