The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a July 17 hearing at which conservative concerns of ideological bias by Big Tech behemoths Google and Facebook will be once again scrutinized.
This second hearing comes after April's heavily publicized version featuring pro-Trump social media celebrities Diamond and Silk, who allege they were censored by Facebook.
According to Politico, both Google and Facebook will attend the hearing- though it remains unclear who will represent them in front of the committee.
The hearing could be especially rough for Google.
Earlier this week, the Chairman and several Subcommittee Chairmen of the House Energy & Commerce Committee sent a letter to Google parent Alphabet, Inc., demanding information about Google's handling of users' personal information. According to the Wall Street Journal,
The lawmakers’ letter to Alphabet CEO Larry Page said recent reports indicate that its Android smartphone operating system collects extensive user-location data and reports it back to Alphabet’s Google unit even when location services are disabled.
Considering that many consumers likely believe that their phones aren’t actively tracking them when the location services are turned off, “this alleged behavior is troubling,” according to the letter, which was signed by the committee’s chairman, Greg Walden (R., Ore.), as well as three subcommittee chairmen, Reps. Gregg Harper (R., Miss.), Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) and Robert Latta (R., Ohio).
The letter to Alphabet also raised questions concerning a report last week in The Wall Street Journal that Google continues to allow third parties to access content of users’ emails, even though the company itself said last year it would halt scanning the contents of emails to “keep privacy and security paramount.”
While none of those members also serve on Judiciary, Blackburn in particular is known to be a favorite among House conservatives- many of whom do sit on the Judiciary Committee- and someone whose concerns are seen as worth pressing by members of the Freedom Caucus.
Notably, Blackburn is running for Senate in Tennessee, a state where Google has wound up on the wrong side of the music industry thanks to YouTube royalty practices.
However, privacy in relation to data location, in particular, remains a bigger concern for conservatives, with some worrying that Google will eventually move to collect data on customers visiting gun shops, potentially surreptitiously, and without phone users' knowledge.
That in turn raises the additional fear of such data ending up in the hands of activist liberal civil servants working in the Department of Justice or Department of Homeland Security during a future Democratic administration.
Google's campaign contributions typically skew left, and Google personnel boosted the presidential campaigns of both President Obama and Hillary Clinton, to the point that Google executive Eric Schmidt was busted wearing a "STAFF" badge at Clinton's 2016 "victory" party.
Some conservatives also see a potential FTC issue for Google in the collection of location data when location services are turned off. Several years back, Google was handed a record fine for its behavior in the Safarigate scandal, which Google critics say the current location data situation resembles.
Congress also is asking Google for “a comprehensive list of the companies with access to a user’s email contents on Gmail,” as well as details about what restrictions it places on the use of email data by app makers.
Hundreds of app developers scan the inboxes of millions of Gmail users who signed up for email-based services, commonly using free apps and services to hook users into giving up access to their inboxes without clearly stating what data they collect and what they are doing with it, current and former employees of these companies told The Journal.
While the focus of the July 17 hearing remains anti-conservative censorship- an issue many conservative authors and sites have complained about with regard to both Google and Facebook for years- it is reasonable to expect the privacy issue to also arise.