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U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn Encourages Digital Leaders To Hold Tech Giants Accountable

WASHINGTON D.C. — With privacy concerns abounding and the debate about who rightfully should have access to your data and digital footprint, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R – Tenn., believes large tech companies must be regulated and held accountable for how consumer data is used. She urged digital community leaders to unite for digital integrity at the Digital Empowers Summit on May 10.

“You are much more than your name, phone number and address,” Blackburn said. “Companies can track you all along the Internet by your IP address, your WIFI address, your Bluetooth, eID and so many others.”

Blackburn didn’t shy away from mentioning companies in question by name. She said last year when the Commerce and Judiciary committees brought Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg before them, they didn’t pull any punches. “I have to tell you,” Blackburn said to the audience comprised of business leaders, tech experts and government partners. “I think it might have been the very first time he realized that he had critics on each side of the aisle and that big tech does not always know better.”

Blackburn said protecting consumer privacy and protecting free speech rights should be a priority, as well as equal access to high-speed Internet. She said about 15 percent of her home state Tennessee still lacks access to high-speed Internet and therefore those residents cannot benefit from things such as online education or the opportunity to work remotely. “We do have to close the digital divide so that there are not two Americas — one with driverless cars, 5G and smart cities and one that looks more like it lives in the 1980s,” Blackburn said.

She said she’s recently been selected to head a bipartisan tech working group in the Judiciary Committee and looks forward “to getting started and bringing in business leaders to discuss ways to protect consumers’ data, their privacy, their free speech while still reserving your ability to really innovate. “

In its second year, the Digital Empowers Summit was hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Tata Consultancy Services. The summit aims to increase the understanding of innovations, such as blockchain, data analytics, virtual simulations and AI, as well as bring greater awareness to how organizations of all sizes are leveraging their capabilities to reshape entire industries and compound social impact within communities around the world.

It’s this future shaping that Blackburn called on the audience to get involved in thoughtfully. “Now California has come to the table and somehow created an even bigger mess with a rush to draft and pass the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act). It has caused a litany of problems. [It’s] only a few months from implementation, [and] they’re still ironing out significant kinks. This is still not ready for prime time.”

The intent of the act is to provide California residents with the right to know what data is being collected about them, know whether their personal data is sold or disclosed and to whom, say no to the sale of their personal data and access their personal data. It’s slated to go into effect in January 2020.

“We have finally reached a point where doing nothing is not a viable option. Congress has to take action and we have to do it in a bipartisan manner,” Blackburn said. “No matter what Mark Zuckerberg thinks, Facebook is not more like a government than a company.”

About the author

Natasha Zena

Around age eight Natasha Zena was told it was a woman’s job to take care of the home and since then she has built a career out of telling women they can do whatever the hell they want to do. She is the co-founder of Lioness, the go-to news source for everything female entrepreneur. Natasha was recognized as an emerging leader in digital media by The Poynter Institute and the National Association of Black Journalists. She has mentored women entrepreneurs and moderated panels at a number of national accelerators, Startup Weekends and conferences such as The Lean Startup Conference, the Massachusetts Conference for Women, Women Empower Expo and Smart Cities Connect. Natasha is also the author of the popular whitepaper, "How To Close The Gender Gap In Startup Land By 2021." In her spare time, she writes short fiction and hangs out with her son, Shaun.

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