Nov 28, 2017

Congress probing Big Tech's use of algorithms, data

The U.S. Capitol dome. Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

The investigation into how Russian ads and content spread on Google, Twitter and Facebook was just the beginning of Congress digging into how tech does business.

What's happening now: Lawmakers want to know everything from how algorithms filter and distribute information behind the scenes to how platforms handle consumer data to the ways extremist content spreads over social media.

Going deep on algorithms: On Wednesday, lawmakers will probe the algorithms used by companies like Google and Facebook.

  • A House subcommittees on technology and consumer protection will ask about consumer data collection and how "companies make decisions about content that consumers see online."
  • Privacy hawk Laura Moy and Frank Pasquale, a professor and Big Tech skeptic, will testify.
  • The subcommittee chairs, Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Bob Latta, say they "intend to shine a light on how technology companies and online platforms use Americans' data and filter information."

What's next: We hear that prominent Amazon critic Lina Khan and "The Googlization of Everything" author Siva Vaidhyanathan are part of a Capitol Hill briefing on platform competition issues this Friday that will involve several progressive lawmakers. And the powerful Senate Commerce Committee is interested in how the social media platforms handle extremist content.

Meanwhile: Senators on both sides of the aisle want Uber to explain more about its recently disclosed data breach.

Go deeper

NYPD commissioner: "I'm extremely proud" of officers' response to protests

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea in February. Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a public statement Sunday that he is "extremely proud" of the New York City Police Department's response to protests over the death of George Floyd Saturday night, writing: "What we saw in New York City last night and the night before was not about peaceful protest of any kind."

Why it matters: New York City residents captured several instances of police officers using excessive force against demonstrators. In one video, two NYPD SUVs are seen ramming into protesters who were blocking a road and throwing traffic cones at the vehicles.

SpaceX capsule carrying astronauts docks with space station

The Crew Dragon just before docking on Sunday. Photo: NASA TV

SpaceX's Crew Dragon safely delivered two NASA astronauts — Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken — to the International Space Station on Sunday after the company's historic launch Saturday.

Why it matters: This marks the first time a private company has delivered people to the space station, and it signals the beginning of the end of NASA's reliance on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft for flights to orbit.

Minnesota AG: Prosecution of officer in George Floyd case shouldn't be rushed

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison cautioned in an interview on "Fox News Sunday" that the case against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer involved in the death of George Floyd, is "very early in the process" and that charges could be amended or added.

Why it matters: Chauvin was arrested last week and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, which implies that he did not intend to kill Floyd. Some protestors have demanded more severe charges, and Floyd's family has asked Ellison to serve as a special prosecutor in the case.