Elizabeth Warren, one of the 13 candidates in an already crowded field of Democrats running for U.S. president in 2020, wants to break up tech giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Twitter by legally designating them as “platform utilities,” she said recently, in order to “keep that marketplace competitive and not let a giant who has an incredible competitive advantage snuff that out.” Amy Klobuchar, another senator seeking the Democratic nomination, says flatly that she doesn’t trust tech companies. She doesn’t want to break them up, but instead has proposed new regulations in the form of antitrust laws, new taxes and federal legislation to protect data privacy.
These statements by Warren and Klobuchar, both made earlier this month at South by Southwest, the tech-media-politico confab in Austin, Texas, were a reminder—if one was needed after the 2016 presidential race—of how central an issue digital technology will be in the 2020 election. From what to do about the spread of disinformation on social media to how the United States can protect the principles of a free and open internet, tech promises to be hotly debated, especially in the Democratic primary. And while these issues for now might seem to be mainly domestic, they have many implications for U.S. foreign policy and national security.
Data: It’s been a rough few years for Facebook, from revelations about its involvement with Cambridge Analytica—the political consulting firm that harvested data from some 87 million Facebook users, and that Donald Trump hired during the 2016 campaign—to exposés on its dubious data-tracking policies. But the spotlight on Facebook is only one part of the growing public awareness around the data collection practices of many tech companies, including how they track real-time GPS data of smartphone users, as The New York Times revealed.