US Capitol Coverage

US lawmakers looking to protect your online data

WASHINGTON (NEWS10) - Lawmakers want to find ways to keep your private data from falling into the hands of companies like Cambridge Analytica. 

The company pirated Facebook data and used it during the 2016 election to support Republicans -- including President Trump.

“I've come here today voluntarily today as witness and whistleblower.”

Christopher Wylie is largely credited for bringing the Facebook data scandal to light.

He's the former director of research at Cambridge Analytica, the now defunct firm, that he says improperly obtained the data of 87 million Facebook users.

On Wednesday, he told lawmakers the firm spread messages online to suppress voter turnout.

“To target anybody with characteristics that would lead them to vote for the Democratic party -- including an in particular African Americans,” Wylie said.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley (R) says Congress should not focus on the partisan politics, but instead look at how tech companies handle users' data going forward.

“It's clear that the use data across the political spectrum is only increasing. Are these companies doing enough to properly disclose their data polices?” Sen.Grassley said.

Wylie told lawmakers most people don't understand what they're handing over, when they consent to online privacy policies.

“When you even talk to lawyers, some of it's even dense for a lawyer,” Wylie said.

In light of the scandal, lawmakers are considering regulating social media companies.  Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) says protecting consumer privacy is critical.

“The right of Facebook -- or any entity -- to use my information without my express committee is over the line.”

Wylie told lawmakers this is only the beginning.

“Cambridge Analytica is the canary in the coal mine.”

He warned if Congress doesn't act, bad actors will continue to use data to divide Americans and put our Democratic process at risk.


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