Facebook and Google have reached so far into the private lives of their users without their knowledge that they are committing “a fraud on the American people,” said a prominent advocate of stricter government regulation for the tech giants.
“The amount of data that Facebook and Google are collecting about the average person is absolutely insane, massive, widespread, ubiquitous, and I think honestly, a fraud on the American people that the people don’t understand that this is happening,” said Sally Hubbard of the Open Markets Institute, an organization that advocates curbing the power of monopolies.
“I think most people have no clue how much is being collected about them. I even don’t have 100 percent clarity and this is something that I care deeply about,” Hubbard said in an interview on “The Long Game,” a Yahoo News podcast.
Hubbard said that based on her expertise in antitrust law, she believes there is “great legal authority to unwind Facebook’s purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp.”
“What that would do is give users an alternative” for messaging and social media, Hubbard said.
Restoring competition to the sectors of social media, search and online advertising would do a few things, she said. It would reduce the ability of the two tech giants to act with impunity against the interests of average people, and make them more accountable to concerns about invasions of privacy.
But “breaking them up is not going to solve all of the problems,” Hubbard said.
She also advocates for government regulation that would allow Facebook to collect information on users only when they are on Facebook, and not across nearly the entirety of their internet usage.
“Most people think, Facebook knows about me the things that I’ve posted on to Facebook. That is a small fraction of what Facebook knows about you, because it’s tracking you across millions and millions of websites,” Hubbard said.
Facebook has agreements with other websites, Hubbard said, that allow it to track user behavior on their pages in exchange for reports from the social media giant on what worked with potential customers and what didn’t. These third-party websites can then advertise more effectively — on Facebook — to potential customers.