Overnight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens

Overnight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens
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Today is Wednesday. Welcome to Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Facebook found itself in hot water this week following a major report from The Wall Street Journal that accused Facebook of being aware that Instagram is detrimental to teenagers, with lawmakers sharply criticizing and scrutinizing the company.

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission voted along party lines to clarify that a long-standing rule applies to apps handling health data, warning the companies to disclose any data breaches to consumers. 


Follow The Hill’s cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

Let’s jump in.


Facebook under fire 

Lawmakers are pressing Facebook over the potential negative impact of its products on teens after a bombshell report detailed the company's internal research on the effect Instagram has on teens' mental health.

Two senators are launching a bipartisan probe into Facebook, and a group of House Democrats doubled down on calls for the platform to abandon controversial plans to launch an Instagram for kids following the report published by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

“It is clear that Facebook is incapable of holding itself accountable. The Wall Street Journal’s reporting reveals Facebook’s leadership to be focused on a growth-at-all-costs mindset that valued profits over the health and lives of children and teens,” Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSenator asks Facebook's Zuckerberg to testify at hearing on kids' safety TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat executives to testify at Senate hearing on kids' safety Buttigieg hits back after parental leave criticism: 'Really strange' MORE (R-Tenn.) said in a joint statement.

Blumenthal and Blackburn, the top members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation's consumer protection subcommittee, said they are in touch with a Facebook whistleblower and will use “every resource at our disposal to investigate what Facebook knew and when they knew it.” 

The senators said they’ll seek further documents and pursue witness testimony. 

“The Wall Street Journal’s blockbuster reporting may only be the tip of the iceberg,” they said.

Read more here.

FTC weighs in on health data breaches 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted 3-2 Wednesday that a decade-old rule on health data breaches applies to apps that handle sensitive health information, warning these companies to comply.  

Revamp: The new policy statement agreed to by the FTC was intended to clarify the agency’s 2009 Health Breach Notification Rule, which requires vendors handling health records to notify consumers if the data is accessed through a breach or other means without the individual’s authorization.

The new policy states that the rule applies to health apps, such as those tracking fitness or menstrual cycles, which have been developed over the past decade. 

“As many Americans turn to apps and other technologies to track diseases, diagnoses, treatment, medications, fitness, fertility, sleep, mental health, diet, and other vital areas, this Rule is more important than ever,” the policy statement agreed to Wednesday reads. “Firms offering these services should take appropriate care to secure and protect consumer data.”

The FTC intends to enforce the new policy, with those in violation facing a financial penalty of over $43,000 per day.  

Disagreement: The vote for the policy fell along party lines, with FTC Chair Lina KhanLina KhanFTC warns of 'significant financial penalties' if for-profit colleges deceive students Hillicon Valley — Presented by Ericsson — Senators gear up for Facebook hearing Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Democrats press FTC to resolve data privacy 'crisis' MORE and the other two Democratic commissioners voting 3-2 in favor of the policy against Republican Commissioners Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson.

Read more about the case here.


DoorDash sued New York City on Wednesday over a new law that compels third-party delivery companies to share customer data with restaurants.


The rule requires delivery companies to comply with requests for monthly information including names, phone numbers and email addresses.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that the new law undermines privacy because no limits are placed on what restaurants can do with data provided to them. 

When customers get food in person they don’t expect to have to disclose “the kind of sensitive personal information that the ordinance requires DoorDash to disclose,” the suit argues.  

“Customers will face a serious risk of harm from their personal data being shared with every restaurant that fulfills their order on DoorDash’s platform,” it continues. 

Read more here.




A group of former top national security officials on Wednesday issued a call for Congress to conduct additional reviews on a series of antitrust bills targeting tech giants, which they argued would harm U.S. companies and give China the upper hand in the tech race. 

In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Buttigieg aims to use Tucker Carlson flap to spotlight paternity leave Judge to hear Trump's case against Jan. 6 committee in November MORE (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyCheney reveals GOP's Banks claimed he was Jan. 6 panel's ranking member House votes to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress GOP memo urges lawmakers to blame White House 'grinches' for Christmas delays MORE (R-Calif.) and first obtained by Axios, the ex-officials said that “more deliberate analysis is needed” for the antitrust bills advanced by the House Judiciary Committee in June “to examine the detrimental impact these bills could have on our strategic competition with China.” 

“Congress should not proceed with current legislative proposals before understanding the full range of potential consequences,” added the group, which included former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race Cyber preparedness could save America's 'unsinkable aircraft carrier' MORE

The officials specifically took issue with “provisions in these bills that target a narrow group of U.S. companies without requiring similar oversight of Chinese tech giants such as Huawei, Tencent, Baidu, and Alibaba,” which they asserted “would place these already formidable competitors in a better position to assume global preeminence.” 

Read more here.




An op-ed to chew on: US Digital Corps essential for our human-centered, tech-enabled future

Notable links from around the web:

Facebook Tried to Make Its Platform a Healthier Place. It Got Angrier Instead (Wall Street Journal / Keach Hagey and Jeff Horwitz)

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click (MIT Tech Review / Karen Hao)

Paranoia and accusations cloud efforts to launch ‘Justice for January 6’ rally (NBC News / Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny)

Amazon loss of executive to Microsoft sets up potential clash (Bloomberg / Dina Bass)


One last thing: No luck o’ the Irish here 

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) says it will investigate social media platform TikTok over its handling of children’s personal data and the transfer of data to China. 

“The first inquiry will examine TikTok’s compliance with the GDPR’s data protection by design and default requirements as they relate to the processing of personal data in the context of platform settings for users under age 18 and age verification measures for persons under 13,” the DPC said in a statement on Wednesday, referring to General Data Protection Regulation, a 2016 European Union privacy law.

DPC’s second inquiry will focus on the transfers of TikTok’s personal data to China and the social media platform's compliance with GDPR requirements on data transfers.

Read more here.


That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s technology and cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Thursday.