Wyden still waiting for Facebook reply on privacy, civil liberties
Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden had a message for the tech world at TechFestNW in Portland on Friday afternoon: Not on my watch.
Speaking at the new Viking Pavilion at Portland State University, Wyden, one of the top Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the audience that a common thread in recent tech events as they affect Washington, D.C., has been the need for vigilance — on the part of the people.
According to Wyden, there are three principles that would help keep people safe and protect our liberties. First, Wyden said, Facebook made "a dramatic retreat" from what they promised two years ago about protecting user data. He urged everyone to go on YouTube and watch Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg look into the camera on and make that promise. Wyden wrote to Facebook on March 19 to ask if the Cambridge Analytica scandal was a one-off, or if it happens more than Facebook wants to admit. "It's clear Facebook is not tripping over themselves to get back to me," he said.
Cambridge Analytica is a political consulting firm accused of inappropriately obtaining private Facebook data from up to 87,000 users that was then used for polling and other services in political races, including Donald Trump's 2016 campaign for president. "Big companies cannot take little responsibility for little problems," Wyden said.
Wyden also accused tech firms of sitting on their hands for years and not managing their platforms adequately. "Facebook blew it in the 2016 election by letting it get hijacked by extreme and fake content that ends up dividing the country," he told the audience.
Wyden's rallying cry: "The data they collect is not just their property." He wants an opt-in system for all social media.
Wyden's second point about privacy was that Stingray cell towers, which allow law enforcement and others to collect information about local cell phone users, have been popping up in Washington, D.C., and are a national security threat. "So make sure tech companies are not forced to weaken the encryption in our phone calls. We need the strongest possible encryption, not less, and I hope you will join me in fighting the FBI and back doors (they want) into these products," Wyden said.
Wyden's third message was that the election system should be defended from cyber attacks that include remote access software installed by voting machine makers to easier manage the machines. Wyden is leading a nationwide push to make all voting across the country by paper mail ballot, similar to Oregon's paper vote-by-mail ballots.