US consumer watchdog starts sniffing around tech giants' use of your spending data

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, PayPal, Square under investigation


America's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said on Thursday it is probing some of the biggest names in the electronic payments industry, requesting detailed information from them on how they collect and use people's spending data.

A strings of demands was issued by the government watchdog to Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, PayPal, and Square, said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra, and more could be sent to others. In addition, the agency is also looking into Chinese payment providers WeChat Pay and Alipay, saying the duo are "combining messaging, e-commerce and payment functionality into super-apps," which America's internet goliaths may try to imitate.

“Big Tech companies are eagerly expanding their empires to gain greater control and insight into our spending habits,” said Chopra in a statement [PDF]. “We have ordered them to produce information about their business plans and practices.”

Chopra, who in his previous role as a commissioner at the FTC was highly critical of the lack of competition in the tech sector, was only sworn as bureau boss in earlier this month, and has hit the ground running. This requested data will be vital in designing competition rules to govern the next decade of payments regulation, he added.

And he wants a lot of it. Chopra said he wanted the agency to make sure America's consumer protections are being applied to payment system data; to find out how companies were using all this spending and personal info to inform their business plans; to whom they are selling the information; and to make sure folks and businesses have a genuine choice of payment provider. The issued orders [PDF] have a very wide remit.

Reining in some of the more monopolistic excesses of the US tech sector might well be something that's popular with both Republicans and Democrats. The Biden administration has actively recruited a host of antitrust-keen officials, including Chopra's former aide Lina Khan, who's now head of the FTC, an appointment Amazon and Facebook publicly opposed.

The Electronic Transactions Association (ETA), a lobbying group whose directors include staff at Apple and Google, said it will "look forward to working with Director Chopra" in the agency's investigations.

"One of the hallmarks of the digital transactions industry is protection of consumer data," commented ETA CEO Jodie Kelley in a statement.

"From encryption to tokenization, we devote enormous resources to keeping digital transactions secure. The digital transactions industry has a good story to tell about its efforts to protect consumer data." ®


Other stories you might like

  • Meg Whitman – former HP and eBay CEO – nominated as US ambassador to Kenya

    Donated $110K to Democrats in recent years

    United States president Joe Biden has announced his intention to nominate former HPE and eBay CEO Meg Whitman as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Kenya.

    The Biden administration's announcement of the planned nomination reminds us that Whitman has served as CEO of eBay, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Quibi. Whitman also serves on the boards of Procter & Gamble, and General Motors.

    The announcement doesn't remind readers that Whitman has form as a Republican politician – she ran for governor of California in 2010, then backed the GOP's Mitt Romney in his 2008 and 2012 bids for the presidency. She later switched political allegiance and backed the presidential campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.

    Continue reading
  • Ex-Qualcomm Snapdragon chief turns CEO at AI chip startup MemryX

    Meet the new boss

    A former executive leading Qualcomm's Snapdragon computing platforms has departed the company to become CEO at an AI chip startup.

    Keith Kressin will lead product commercialization for MemryX, which was founded in 2019 and makes memory-intensive AI chiplets.

    The company is now out of stealth mode and will soon commercially ship its AI chips to non-tech customers. The company was testing early generations of its chips with industries including auto and robotics.

    Continue reading
  • Aircraft can't land safely due to interference with upcoming 5G C-band broadband service

    Expect flight delays and diversions, US Federal Aviation Administation warns

    The new 5G C-band wireless broadband service expected to rollout on 5 January 2022 in the US will disrupt local radio signals and make it difficult for airplanes to land safely in harsh weather conditions, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

    Pilots rely on radio altimeter readings to figure out when and where an aircraft should carry out a series of operations to prepare for touchdown. But the upcoming 5G C-band service beaming from cell towers threatens to interfere with these signals, the FAA warned in two reports.

    Flights may have to be delayed or restricted at certain airports as the new broadband service comes into effect next year. The change could affect some 6,834 airplanes and 1,828 helicopters. The cost to operators is expected to be $580,890.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021