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And now the hearings. Earlier today, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that it’s seeking testimony from Facebook, Google and Twitter executives on data privacy issues, triggered by the Cambridge Analytica data-mining controversy, which, as far as we know, has nothing to do with Google or Twitter.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said this past weekend that he would testify as part of a larger effort to address fallout from the scandal. However, the committee will seek to pull in Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as well. The hearing is scheduled for April 10.

The hearing will be an opportunity for senators to lecture and express appropriate concern about privacy practices at the big tech companies. According to the committee’s request, the hearings would “broadly cover privacy standards for the collection, retention and dissemination of consumer data for commercial use.” It will probably also seek to explore what constructive measures might be taken to avoid similar data appropriation incidents (or leaks) in the future.

It’s clearly appropriate for the government to investigate what happened with Cambridge Analytica. However, the hearings will likely fall into the category of political theater rather than yield concrete results or benefits for consumers.

Republicans have already indicated a lack of interest in consumer privacy, and Democrats don’t have the power to get anything done before the 2018 midterms. It is possible, I suppose, that a “coalition of the incensed” could cross party lines to propose new bipartisan privacy legislation.

However, the budget bill that just passed is widely regarded as the last piece of Congressional legislation that will pass this year.

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About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.



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