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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Consumer Protection"

Wells Fargo Was Promised Soft Handling by Trump Appointee, Democrats Say

Even after regulators fined Wells Fargo $1 billion in 2018 for misdeeds including creating fake accounts in its customers’ names, the bank was facing a slew of other investigations.

House Democrats say the bank found an ally in Eric Blankenstein, a political appointee high up in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency created to guard against the abuse of mom-and-pop customers.

Mr. Blankenstein, an enforcement official at the agency, privately offered reassurances to Wells Fargo’s chief executive at the time that there would be “political oversight” of its enforcement actions, according to a report issued Wednesday by the House Financial Services Committee. The report said the agency had promised that the unresolved regulatory matters, such as an inquiry into the bank’s aggressive practice of closing customers’ accounts, would be settled in private, without further fines.

Westlake Legal Group 10dc-finreg-3-articleLarge Wells Fargo Was Promised Soft Handling by Trump Appointee, Democrats Say Wells Fargo&Company Waters, Maxine Parker, C Allen House Financial Services Committee Consumer Protection Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Blankenstein, Eric Banking and Financial Institutions
Eric Blankenstein, an official with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has faced criticism for making a series of racially provocative comments over the years.Credit…Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Those findings and others were released after an investigation by Democrats on the committee. Wells Fargo’s recently appointed chief executive, Charles W. Scharf, is set to testify next week before the committee, which is led by Representative Maxine Waters of California. The bank’s board chairwoman, Betsy Duke, is also expected to testify.

A Wells Fargo spokesman did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

According to the report, Mr. Scharf’s immediate predecessor, C. Allen Parker, explicitly told a member of the bank’s board in May that Mr. Blankenstein had promised him that the Trump administration would continue to smooth the way for the bank — even after Mr. Blankenstein resigned that week over racist statements he had made as a law student.

“Eric also assured me that there would continue to be ‘political’ oversight of the engagement with us, although he wasn’t yet sure who his successor would be,” Mr. Parker wrote to the board member, James Quigley.

Given their conversations with Mr. Blankenstein, the bank’s leaders were expecting to be able to resolve the active investigations with the agency in private, without paying any more fines. They expressed surprise, according to the report, when members of the agency’s staff said two months later that they were not aware of Mr. Blankenstein’s assurances.

The report also said Wells Fargo had dragged its feet on fixing internal controls and that Ms. Duke, while vice chairwoman, complained in 2017 about being included on emails from the consumer agency to the bank instructing it on how to improve its operations.

“This committee staff report shines a much-needed spotlight on ‘The Real Wells Fargo,’” Ms. Waters said in a statement Wednesday evening. She called the bank “a reckless megabank with an ineffective board and management that has exhibited an egregious pattern of consumer abuses.”

Less than two months after Mr. Blankenstein left the consumer agency, he was hired by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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New Mexico Sues Google Over Children’s Privacy Violations

Westlake Legal Group 20google-facebookJumbo New Mexico Sues Google Over Children’s Privacy Violations Suits and Litigation (Civil) Privacy Google Inc Education (K-12) Consumer Protection Computers and the Internet Chrome (Operating System) Children's Online Privacy Protection Act Balderas, Hector H Jr

New Mexico’s attorney general sued Google on Thursday, saying the tech giant used its educational products to spy on the state’s children and families.

Google collected a trove of students’ personal information, including data on their physical locations, websites they visited, YouTube videos they watched and their voice recordings, Hector Balderas, New Mexico’s attorney general, said in a federal lawsuit.

“The consequences of Google’s tracking cannot be overstated: Children are being monitored by one of the largest data mining companies in the world, at school, at home, on mobile devices, without their knowledge and without the permission of their parents,” the lawsuit said.

Over the last eight years, Google has emerged as the predominant tech brand in American public schools, outpacing rivals like Apple and Microsoft by offering a suite of inexpensive, easy-to-use tools.

Today, more than half of the nation’s public schools — and 90 million students and teachers globally — use free Google Education apps like Gmail and Google Docs. More than 25 million students and teachers also use Chromebooks, laptops that run on the company’s Chrome operating system, the lawsuit said.

In September, Google agreed to pay a $170 million fine to settle federal and New York State charges that it illegally harvested the personal data of children on YouTube.

The new lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, claimed that Google violated the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The law requires companies to obtain a parent’s consent before collecting the name, contact information and other personal details from a child under 13.

The lawsuit also said Google deceived schools, parents, teachers and students by telling them that were no privacy concerns with its education products when, in fact, the company had amassed a trove of potentially sensitive details on students’ online activities and locations.

Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman, said the lawsuit’s claims were “factually wrong.”

“G Suite for Education allows schools to control account access and requires that schools obtain parental consent when necessary,” he said in a statement. “We do not use personal information from users in primary and secondary schools to target ads.”

For years, parents and privacy groups have complained that Google was using its education products to track millions of schoolchildren without adequately detailing its data-mining practices or obtaining explicit parental consent for the tracking. One issue of contention is that the company applies different privacy policies to different products.

Google has said its “core” products for schools, including Gmail and Drive, comply with privacy regulations requiring companies to use student data only for school purposes. The company said those core education products do not collect student data for advertising purposes or show targeted ads.

Google has maintained that other company services, like YouTube, which many schools also use, fall under a consumer privacy policy allowing it to collect user data for its own business purposes, such as product development.

Although the company provides school districts with an online dashboard to control student access to YouTube and dozens of other Google apps, some public school officials have said it can be difficult to parse the tech giant’s differing data-mining practices.

Mr. Balderas said Google had used its education products as a means to deceptively track schoolchildren for nonschool purposes.

When students log into their Chromebooks, Google turns on a feature that syncs its Chrome browser with other devices used by a student on that account, the lawsuit said. It effectively blends a student’s school and personal web activities into a single profile that Google can view, according to the lawsuit.

A feature that would prevent Google from full access to that data is also turned off by default, the suit said.

Students “begin engaging with Google technology through teachers and in school settings for homework, communication and other educational purposes,” Mr. Balderas said in a phone interview. Then the same schoolchildren, he said, go on to use Google services from their phones or at home, “allowing Google to track them for noneducational purposes — and definitely without the consent of their parents.”

Brian McMath, a senior litigator in the state attorney general’s Consumer and Environmental Protection division, said his office estimated that two-thirds of New Mexico’s school districts use some type of Google Education product.

This is not the first time that New Mexico has tangled with Google in the courts. Mr. Balderas filed a separate lawsuit in 2018 saying that a popular children’s app maker, along with advertising networks like Google and Twitter, had violated the federal children’s privacy law. In 2019, Google asked a federal judge to dismiss the suit. Mr. Balderas is also one of the state attorneys general who have publicly signed on to an antitrust investigation into Google.

To ease concerns about Google’s education data mining, the company agreed in 2015 to sign a voluntary industry pledge on student privacy. Under that pledge, Google promised not to collect, maintain, use or share student personal information beyond that needed for educational purposes.

Google also agreed not to use student information collected from its education services for behavioral ad targeting and not to retain students’ personal information beyond the time that the children were in school unless they received parental consent.

The lawsuit argued that Google had broken those promises.

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Grindr and OkCupid Spread Personal Details, Study Says

Westlake Legal Group 13grindr1-facebookJumbo Grindr and OkCupid Spread Personal Details, Study Says Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Privacy Online Dating Online Advertising OkCupid Mobile Applications Homosexuality and Bisexuality Grindr.com Data-Mining and Database Marketing Consumer Protection

By Natasha Singer and

Popular dating services like Grindr, OkCupid and Tinder are spreading user information like dating choices and precise location to advertising and marketing companies in ways that may violate privacy laws, according to a new report that examined some of the world’s most downloaded Android apps.

Grindr, the world’s most popular gay dating app, transmitted user-tracking codes and the app’s name to more than a dozen companies, essentially tagging individuals with their sexual orientation, according to the report, which was released Tuesday by the Norwegian Consumer Council, a government-funded nonprofit organization in Oslo.

Grindr also sent a user’s location to multiple companies, which may then share that data with many other businesses, the report said. When The New York Times tested Grinder’s Android app, it shared precise latitude and longitude information with five companies.

The researchers also reported that the OkCupid app sent a user’s ethnicity and answers to personal profile questions — like “Have you used psychedelic drugs?” — to a firm that helps companies tailor marketing messages to users. The Times found that the OkCupid site had recently posted a list of more than 300 advertising and analytics “partners” with which it may share users’ information.

“Any consumer with an average number of apps on their phone — anywhere between 40 and 80 apps — will have their data shared with hundreds or perhaps thousands of actors online,” said Finn Myrstad, the digital policy director for the Norwegian Consumer Council, who oversaw the report.

The report, “Out of Control: How Consumers Are Exploited by the Online Advertising Industry,” adds to a growing body of research exposing a vast ecosystem of companies that freely track hundreds of millions of people and peddle their personal information. This surveillance system enables scores of businesses, whose names are unknown to many consumers, to quietly profile individuals, target them with ads and try to sway their behavior.

The report appears just two weeks after California put into effect a broad new consumer privacy law. Among other things, the law requires many companies that trade consumers’ personal details for money or other compensation to allow people to easily stop the spread of their information.

In addition, regulators in the European Union are stepping up enforcement of their own data protection law, which prohibits companies from collecting personal information on religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sex life and other sensitive subjects without a person’s explicit consent.

The Norwegian group said it planned to file complaints on Tuesday asking regulators in Oslo to investigate Grindr and five ad tech companies for possible violations of the European data protection law. A coalition of consumer groups in the United States said it was also sending letters to American regulators, including the attorney general of California, urging them to investigate whether the companies’ practices violated federal and state laws.

In a statement, the Match Group, which owns OkCupid and Tinder, said it worked with outside companies to assist with providing services and shared only specific user data deemed necessary for those services. Match added that it complied with privacy laws and had strict contracts with vendors to ensure the security of users’ personal data.

In a statement, Grindr said it had not received a copy of the report and could not comment specifically on the content. Grindr added that it valued users’ privacy, had put safeguards in place to protect their personal information and described its data practices — and users’ privacy options — in its privacy policy

The report examines how developers embed software from ad tech companies into their apps to track users’ app use and real-life locations, a common practice. To help developers place ads in their apps, ad tech companies may spread users’ information to advertisers, personalized marketing services, location data brokers and ad platforms.

The personal data that ad software extracts from apps is typically tied to a user-tracking code that is unique for each mobile device. Companies use the tracking codes to build rich profiles of people over time across multiple apps and sites. But even without their real names, individuals in such data sets may be identified and located in real life.

The dating service recently posted the more than 300 companies that it may send user information.

For the report, the Norwegian Consumer Council hired Mnemonic, a cybersecurity firm in Oslo, to examine how ad tech software extracted user data from 10 popular Android apps. The findings suggest that some companies treat intimate information, like gender preference or drug habits, no differently from more innocuous information, like favorite foods.

Among other things, the researchers found that Tinder sent a user’s gender and the gender the user was looking to date to two marketing firms.

The researchers did not test iPhone apps. Settings on both Android phones and iPhones enable users to limit ad tracking.

The group’s findings illustrate how challenging it would be for even the most intrepid consumers to track and hinder the spread of their personal information.

Grindr’s app, for instance, includes software from MoPub, Twitter’s ad service, which can collect the app’s name and a user’s precise device location, the report said. MoPub in turn says it may share user data with more than 180 partner companies. One of those partners is an ad tech company owned by AT&T, which may share data with more than 1,000 “third-party providers.”

In a statement, Twitter said: “We are currently investigating this issue to understand the sufficiency of Grindr’s consent mechanism. In the meantime, we have disabled Grindr’s MoPub account.”

AT&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The spread of users’ location and other sensitive information could present particular risks to people who use Grindr in countries, like Qatar and Pakistan, where consensual same-sex sexual acts are illegal.

This is not the first time that Grindr has faced criticism for spreading its users’ information. In 2018, another Norwegian nonprofit group found that the app had been broadcasting users’ H.I.V. status to two mobile app service companies. Grindr subsequently announced that it had stopped the practice.

The report’s findings also raise questions about the extent to which businesses are complying with the new California privacy law. The law requires many companies that benefit from trading consumers’ personal details to prominently post a “Do Not Sell My Data” option, allowing people to stop the spread of their information.

But Grindr’s stance challenges that idea. By agreeing to its policy, its site says, users “are directing us to disclose” their personal information “and, therefore, Grindr does not sell your personal data.”

Mr. Myrstad said many consumers were comfortable sharing their data with apps they trusted. “But this study clearly shows that many apps abuse that trust,” he said. “Authorities need to enforce the rules we have, and if they are not good enough, we have to make better rules.”

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Australia Says Google Misled Consumers Over Location Tracking

Westlake Legal Group 29oz-google-facebookJumbo Australia Says Google Misled Consumers Over Location Tracking Privacy Online Advertising Google Inc Consumer Protection Computers and the Internet Australia Android (Operating System)

SYDNEY, Australia — Australian regulators on Tuesday accused Google of misleading consumers about its collection of their personal location information through its Android mobile operating system, the latest government action against a tech company over its handling of vast quantities of user data.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleged in a lawsuit that Google falsely led users to believe that disabling the “Location History” setting on Android phones would stop the company from collecting their location data. But users were actually required to also turn off a second setting, “Web and App Activity,” that was enabled by default.

Google did not properly disclose the need to disable both settings from January 2017 until late 2018, the suit alleges. The company changed its user guidance after The Associated Press revealed in August 2018 that it was continuing to collect the data even after the Location History setting was switched off.

The commission also said that while Google made it clear to users what features they would lose by turning off location services, the company did not inform them adequately about what it would do with the data collected.

“This is part of a system of not being able to make informed choices about what’s being done with your data,” said Rod Sims, the commission’s chairman.

Mr. Sims called the lawsuit the first of its kind by a national government against a tech company over its use of personal data. The agency is seeking what he called significant financial penalties against Google, among other corrective measures. He added that he hoped the case would raise awareness among consumers over how much data is being collected.

“We need to be getting ahead of them, because this is a whole new world,” he said of data collection issues.

A Google spokeswoman said in a statement that the company was reviewing the allegations. She said Google would continue to engage with the commission over its concerns but intended to defend itself.

The action by Australian regulators comes as governments and consumer groups around the world have expressed growing concern about the power of tech companies, including their collection of personal data from devices that are indispensable to the lives of billions of people.

Consumer groups from several European countries had already sued Google over the location tracking issue under a comprehensive data privacy law adopted in Europe last year. Under that law, a French agency fined Google 50 million euros, or about $55 million, in January for not properly disclosing to users how it collected data to create personalized ads.

In the United States, regulators approved a $5 billion fine against Facebook this year over its role in allowing Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm hired by President Trump’s 2016 election campaign, to gain access to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users.

While Google has made changes to Android in later iterations that limit the location data it gathers, the business incentives for collecting as much personal data as possible remain great. Location-targeted advertising is worth an estimated $21 billion a year, and Google, along with Facebook, dominates the mobile ad market.

The Australian lawsuit is in part the product of a 19-month investigation by the consumer commission into the market power of Google and Facebook. It issued 23 recommendations, including an overhaul of privacy laws, to limit their reach and force them to take more responsibility for the content they disseminate.

The Australian government has also passed legislation challenging the power of tech companies, including a law in 2018 that compelled tech-industry giants to disable encryption. And under a new law criminalizing “abhorrent violent material” online, Australia is using the threat of fines and jail time to pressure platforms like Facebook to block such content, and it is moving to take down websites that hold any illegal content.

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Consumer Bureau’s Complaints Database Is ‘Here to Stay,’ Director Says

Westlake Legal Group 19cfpb1-facebookJumbo Consumer Bureau’s Complaints Database Is ‘Here to Stay,’ Director Says Mulvaney, Mick Kraninger, Kathy Consumer Protection Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Banking and Financial Institutions

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will continue to publish its database of consumer complaints about financial companies, ending — for now — a battle over public access to one of the agency’s most powerful tools.

“The database is here to stay,” Kathleen Kraninger, the bureau’s director, said Wednesday at a consumer conference in Rosemont, Ill., outside Chicago.

Since 2011, the bureau has maintained an open and searchable record of more than one million consumer accusations of inaccurate bills, illegal fees, improper overdraft charges, mistakes on loans and a long list of other issues. Companies have complained that the database unfairly harms their reputations by spreading unverified negative information, but consumer advocates say it’s a vital tool for spotting problems and patterns of bad conduct.

Consumer groups had worried that the database — which contains information the bureau is legally required to collect — could be made private as the bureau shifted in a business-friendly direction under President Trump, who has pushed to reduce government regulation.

Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Trump’s acting chief of staff, who ran the bureau temporarily, suggested shielding the complaints data from public view. He told a banking conference last year, “I don’t see anything in here that says I have to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government.”

When Mr. Mulvaney initiated a public call for feedback on the bureau’s complaint process, more than 26,000 people, companies and advocacy groups responded. Ms. Kraninger called that outpouring of comments “staggering” and persuasive.

Ms. Kraninger said that the database would remain public and that the bureau would add new features to help consumers contact companies and research answers to common questions. The bureau will also release data visualization and analysis tools to help people interpret the data in context.

“These are the kind of tools that our researchers already use internally, and I think making them available to the public will greatly improve the functionality of the database,” she said.

In a rare moment of alignment, industry trade groups and consumer advocacy organizations were cautiously optimistic about Ms. Kraninger’s announcement.

“I’m gratified that the complaint narratives will remain public and hope that the C.F.P.B. will continue to encourage consumers to submit complaints when they face problems,” said Lauren Saunders, associate director of the National Consumer Law Center.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called Ms. Kraninger’s plans “a step in the right direction.” Richard Hunt, the chief executive of the Consumer Bankers Association, said the changes Ms. Kraninger outlined would help make the bureau’s complaints system fairer.

While consumer advocates were heartened by the preservation of the public database on Wednesday, they were lining up to criticize another decision Ms. Kraninger made this week. On Tuesday, she flipped the bureau’s position in a court fight about its independence, joining critics who say its leadership structure is unconstitutional.

The legislation that created the consumer bureau contained a provision saying that the bureau’s director could be removed only for cause, defined as “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance.” That provision has been repeatedly challenged in court by adversaries who have said it gives the bureau’s director too much unchecked power — a position the Justice Department took early in Mr. Trump’s presidency.

The bureau had resisted, maintaining that its structure was legally permissible — until this week. Consumer groups including the National Consumer Law Center and Public Citizen criticized Ms. Kraninger’s reversal, saying it undermined Congress’s ability to create independent agencies.

In her speech on Wednesday, Ms. Kraninger urged the Supreme Court to take up a case involving Seila Law, a California firm that has asked the court to hear its challenge to the agency’s structure, including the terms of the director position.

“My decision to no longer defend the removal provision does not mean that the bureau will stop its work,” she said. “We will continue to defend the actions that the bureau takes now and has taken in the past.”

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Skip Cash for Equifax Breach and Get Credit Monitoring, F.T.C. Tells Victims

Westlake Legal Group 23equifax-jp-1-print-facebookJumbo Skip Cash for Equifax Breach and Get Credit Monitoring, F.T.C. Tells Victims Personal Finances Federal Trade Commission Equifax Inc Cyberattacks and Hackers Consumer Protection

Overwhelmed by requests from consumers seeking compensation related to the giant 2017 data breach at the credit bureau Equifax, the Federal Trade Commission is recommending that people accept free credit monitoring rather than cash.

In a blog post published on Wednesday, the agency announced that because of the high volume of requests, the F.T.C. would not be able to offer $125 to consumers whose data was hacked, the upper limit of what was initially offered. Instead, the commission is recommending that consumers seek credit-monitoring services.

“The public response to the settlement has been overwhelming,” wrote Robert Schoshinski, assistant director of the F.T.C.’s division of privacy and identity protection, referring to an agreement reached with Equifax last week.

As a result, “each person who takes the money option will wind up only getting a small amount of money,” he added. “Nowhere near the $125 they could have gotten if there hadn’t been such an enormous number of claims filed.”

About 147 million people were affected by Equifax’s breach, which resulted in the release of people’s names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and other identifying information.

On July 22, the F.T.C., the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 50 states and United States territories agreed to a global settlement with Equifax that promised up to $700 million in payments, including fines. But according to Mr. Schoshinski’s post, just $31 million was set aside for financial compensation for the affected consumers, not enough to meet demands for cash.

In lieu of a cash payment, consumers are being urged to seek the free credit-monitoring option, which, Mr. Schoshinski noted, is worth hundreds of dollars a year. But some readers of the agency’s post on Wednesday were anything but pleased by the suggestion.

“Seems like Equifax is getting off too easy for the mess they made,” read one anonymous response in the comment section. “Sounds like negotiators for Equifax out-danced the other side!”

Another anonymous commenter quipped: “Did someone forget to do the math?”

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Facebook Cryptocurrency Plans Have a Problem: Facebook’s Reputation

Westlake Legal Group 16libra-facebookJumbo Facebook Cryptocurrency Plans Have a Problem: Facebook’s Reputation Zuckerberg, Mark E Virtual Currency United States Politics and Government United States Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Social Media Senate Committee on Banking Securities and Exchange Commission Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Powell, Jerome H PayPal Money Laundering Mnuchin, Steven T Marcus, David A Libra (Currency) House Financial Services Committee Federal Trade Commission Federal Reserve System Facebook Inc E-Commerce Consumer Protection Computers and the Internet Brown, Sherrod Bitcoin (Currency) Banking and Financial Institutions

Lawmakers made it clear at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Tuesday that they believe the biggest roadblock to Facebook’s plan to enter the world of cryptocurrency and global finance is the company’s reputation.

Facebook’s cryptocurrency project, Libra, has been in the works for more than a year. It has an ambitious goal: to offer an alternative financial system that makes it possible to send money around the world with few fees.

But almost immediately, the company has run into resistance from Washington.

“Facebook is dangerous,” Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, said at the hearing. “Facebook has said ‘just trust us.’ And every time Americans trust you, they seem to get burned.”

The initiative is far from the first effort of its kind. The best-known cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, is in wide circulation, and it introduced the idea of digital currencies that are free from government control.

But the Libra effort has put a spotlight on cryptocurrencies and amplified the voices of critics who say the technology has little value beyond speculative investing and illegal transactions, like online drug sales.

When Facebook announced Libra in June, it also faced immediate skepticism from people who are wary of the power the social media company has already accumulated. Within days, regulators in Washington were calling for hearings on Facebook’s plans.

That concern was obvious on Tuesday when members of the committee questioned David Marcus, who leads the company’s cryptocurrency initiative, for more than two hours. Mr. Marcus was asked about a range of Facebook controversies, from lax protection of the private information of its users to Russian disinformation on Facebook’s platforms to claims that is tries to muzzle conservative viewpoints.

“Why in the world should Facebook of all companies do this?” asked Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii. “Maybe before you do a new thing you should make sure you have your own shop fixed.”

Mr. Marcus, adopting a conciliatory tone, said the company would do its best to fight fraud and to earn back the trust of the more than two billion people who use Facebook’s services regularly.

“We’ve made mistakes in the past,” Mr. Marcus said. “We have been working, and are working hard to get better.”

The Senate session was the first in a day of Capitol Hill hearings involving the technology industry. House lawmakers were set to question multiple tech executives at an afternoon hearing focused on competition issues as part of a broad antitrust inquiry. And Google executives were scheduled to face questions at another hearing on the subject of whether the company censors conservative voices.

Facebook officials will also have to answer more questions about the company’s cryptocurrency plans in a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Some lawmakers and regulators — most notably at the Securities and Exchange Commission — have been raising concerns about the legality and usefulness of cryptocurrencies for some time.

The involvement of Facebook, which has faced an onslaught of controversy over the last two years and is expected to pay a $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, has put a charge into those discussions.

Last week, the chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome H. Powell, said Libra raised “serious concerns” around “money laundering, consumer protection and financial stability.”

“I just think it cannot go forward without there being broad satisfaction with the way the company has addressed money laundering” and other issues, Mr. Powell said as he testified before the House Financial Services Committee. Central bankers from Britain, China, France, Singapore and the European Central Bank have all voiced similar concerns.

President Trump also criticized Libra and Bitcoin, writing on Twitter last week that the digital tokens were “highly volatile and based on thin air.”

And at a news conference on Monday afternoon, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also raised questions about Libra and other cryptocurrencies. Facebook has “a lot of work to do before we get to the point where we’re comfortable with it,” Mr. Mnuchin told reporters.

The issue provides a rare instance when the Trump administration is lining up with Democrats rather than other Republicans. While Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee lashed into Facebook, several Republicans on the committee voiced support for Facebook and its new initiative.

“I just think we should be exploring this and considering the benefits as well as the risks,” said Patrick Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania. “To announce in advance that we have to strangle this baby in the crib seems wildly premature.”

But not all Republicans on the committee were so positive.

Martha McSally, a Republican from Arizona, said “I don’t trust you guys.”

And Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, worried that conservatives would not be treated fairly in the Libra system, echoing a frequent Republican talking point about the liberal bias of tech companies.

Mr. Marcus, a former PayPal executive, was handpicked by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to lead the Libra effort.

Facebook’s role in the project will be run through a subsidiary company called Calibra, led by Mr. Marcus and other top Facebook employees. If the Libra digital token become popular, Calibra could build a business around offering customer financial services, including loans and other actions traditionally offered by the banking industry.

A separate entity called the Libra Association, whose proposed board would include more than a dozen partners in the tech and financial industries, would manage the cryptocurrency system once it is up and running, which Facebook is hoping to do next year.

Mr. Brown asked if there was any amount of opposition that would convince Facebook to scrap Libra.

“Is there anything that elected leaders can say that will convince you and Facebook that it should not launch this currency?” he said.

Mr. Marcus said that the company would not move ahead with the project until the concerns of regulators are answered.

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Want the Robocalls to Stop? Congress Does, Too

Westlake Legal Group 20xp-robocalls-facebookJumbo Want the Robocalls to Stop? Congress Does, Too Wireless Communications United States Politics and Government Telemarketing Spam (Electronic) Smartphones Law and Legislation House of Representatives Federal Communications Commission Consumer Protection Cellular Telephones

Besieged by nearly five billion unwanted automated calls from telemarketers and scammers last month, Americans are poised to get relief from robocalls under a bipartisan compromise bill introduced in the House on Thursday.

The measure would require phone carriers to offer screening technology to identify and block spam calls at no additional cost to customers within 18 months of the bill’s being enacted.

Known as the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, the legislation was first introduced in February by Democrats, who finally reached a deal Thursday with Republicans on the bill’s language.

The revamped bill was unveiled by the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Frank Pallone Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, and the committee’s ranking member, Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon. It would apply to both wireless phones and land lines, according to Mr. Pallone, who said he was optimistic about the bill’s chances of winning House and Senate approval and being signed by President Trump.

“At one point, this was just a nuisance. Now there are so many indications that this is putting people in danger,” Mr. Pallone said in an interview Thursday. “You have these scammers now disguised as the I.R.S. You have those that are disguised as police officers. From personal experience, I think it undermines people’s faith in the phone system and they don’t answer.”

The compromise between Democrats and Republicans on the committee came one month after the Senate overwhelmingly approved separate anti-robocall legislation to respond to constituent furor over unwanted calls. Consumer protection advocates said the Senate version did not go far enough to address the problem.

“A lot of calls are scams, and those need to be stopped,” said Margot Saunders, senior counsel for the National Consumer Law Center. “The Republicans and Democrats have recognized they need to be aggressive in addressing robocalls, and this bill is a reflection of that.”

The National Consumer Law Center, a Boston-based nonprofit organization, took part in the drafting of the bill, which is scheduled for discussion next week. The group supported a class-action lawsuit against Hilton Grand Vacations Company, in which consumers accused the company of having humans push a button on its automated dialing system to avoid meeting the Federal Communications Commission’s definition of a robocall. Hilton had disputed that it violated the law and won a federal court judgment, which the plaintiffs appealed in January in federal court.

“If the F.C.C. does what this bill tells it to do, it will stop a lot of the calls, and that’s a big deal,” Ms. Saunders said.

Another key aspect of the legislation would extend the statute of limitations for filing robocall-related complaints with the F.C.C. Consumers now have one year to file. Under the bill, they would get three years — and in some cases, up to four years — to bring a complaint.

A spokesman for the F.C.C. declined to comment Thursday. The White House also declined to comment.

A top lobbying group for the wireless industry signaled its support for the push against robocalls.

“The wireless industry is committed to combating illegal robocalls and protecting consumers, and we thank committee leadership for tackling this important issue,” said Kelly Cole, senior vice president for government affairs at CTIA, a wireless industry trade group based in Washington. “We look forward to working on getting robocall legislation enacted.”

The scourge of robocalls has boosted the popularity of websites such as YouMail, which offers a free robocall blocking app, in addition to paid services. According to YouMail, there were around five billion robocalls in May, about double the number there were two years ago.

Under the legislation, the F.C.C. would be required to report to Congress about its efforts to update a database of phone number changes — so that callers would have a person’s most recent contact information and avoid calling an old phone number.

“They won’t have the excuse anymore when they meant to call you and they called me,” Ms. Saunders said.

Mr. Pallone said Americans had become so fed up with receiving unwanted calls, including from foreign countries, that they could inadvertently miss out on important calls.

“More and more, I just don’t answer the phone,” he said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Anti-Robocall Bill Gets Bipartisan Backing

Westlake Legal Group 20xp-robocalls-facebookJumbo Anti-Robocall Bill Gets Bipartisan Backing Wireless Communications United States Politics and Government Telemarketing Spam (Electronic) Smartphones Law and Legislation House of Representatives Federal Communications Commission Consumer Protection Cellular Telephones

Besieged by nearly five billion unwanted automated calls from telemarketers and scammers last month, Americans are poised to get relief from robocalls under a bipartisan compromise bill introduced in the House on Thursday.

The measure would require phone carriers to offer screening technology to identify and block spam calls at no additional cost to customers within 18 months of the bill’s being enacted.

Known as the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, the legislation was first introduced in February by Democrats, who finally reached a deal Thursday with Republicans on the bill’s language.

The revamped bill was unveiled by the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Frank Pallone Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, and the committee’s ranking member, Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon. It would apply to both wireless phones and land lines, according to Mr. Pallone, who said he was optimistic about the bill’s chances of winning House and Senate approval and being signed by President Trump.

“At one point, this was just a nuisance. Now there are so many indications that this is putting people in danger,” Mr. Pallone said in an interview Thursday. “You have these scammers now disguised as the I.R.S. You have those that are disguised as police officers. From personal experience, I think it undermines people’s faith in the phone system and they don’t answer.”

The compromise between Democrats and Republicans on the committee came one month after the Senate overwhelmingly approved separate anti-robocall legislation to respond to constituent furor over unwanted calls. Consumer protection advocates said the Senate version did not go far enough to address the problem.

“A lot of calls are scams, and those need to be stopped,” said Margot Saunders, senior counsel for the National Consumer Law Center. “The Republicans and Democrats have recognized they need to be aggressive in addressing robocalls, and this bill is a reflection of that.”

The National Consumer Law Center, a Boston-based nonprofit organization, took part in the drafting of the bill, which is scheduled for discussion next week. The group supported a class-action lawsuit against Hilton Grand Vacations Company, in which consumers accused the company of having humans push a button on its automated dialing system to avoid meeting the Federal Communications Commission’s definition of a robocall. Hilton had disputed that it violated the law and won a federal court judgment, which the plaintiffs appealed in January in federal court.

“If the F.C.C. does what this bill tells it to do, it will stop a lot of the calls, and that’s a big deal,” Ms. Saunders said.

Another key aspect of the legislation would extend the statute of limitations for filing robocall-related complaints with the F.C.C. Consumers now have one year to file. Under the bill, they would get three years — and in some cases, up to four years — to bring a complaint.

A spokesman for the F.C.C. declined to comment Thursday. The White House also declined to comment.

A top lobbying group for the wireless industry signaled its support for the push against robocalls.

“The wireless industry is committed to combating illegal robocalls and protecting consumers, and we thank committee leadership for tackling this important issue,” said Kelly Cole, senior vice president for government affairs at CTIA, a wireless industry trade group based in Washington. “We look forward to working on getting robocall legislation enacted.”

The scourge of robocalls has boosted the popularity of websites such as YouMail, which offers a free robocall blocking app, in addition to paid services. According to YouMail, there were around five billion robocalls in May, about double the number there were two years ago.

Under the legislation, the F.C.C. would be required to report to Congress about its efforts to update a database of phone number changes — so that callers would have a person’s most recent contact information and avoid calling an old phone number.

“They won’t have the excuse anymore when they meant to call you and they called me,” Ms. Saunders said.

Mr. Pallone said Americans had become so fed up with receiving unwanted calls, including from foreign countries, that they could inadvertently miss out on important calls.

“More and more, I just don’t answer the phone,” he said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Anti-Robocall Bill Gets Bipartisan Backing

Westlake Legal Group 20xp-robocalls-facebookJumbo Anti-Robocall Bill Gets Bipartisan Backing Wireless Communications United States Politics and Government Telemarketing Spam (Electronic) Smartphones Law and Legislation House of Representatives Federal Communications Commission Consumer Protection Cellular Telephones

Besieged by nearly five billion unwanted automated calls from telemarketers and scammers last month, Americans are poised to get relief from robocalls under a bipartisan compromise bill introduced in the House on Thursday.

The measure would require phone carriers to offer screening technology to identify and block spam calls at no additional cost to customers within 18 months of the bill’s being enacted.

Known as the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, the legislation was first introduced in February by Democrats, who finally reached a deal Thursday with Republicans on the bill’s language.

The revamped bill was unveiled by the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Frank Pallone Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, and the committee’s ranking member, Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon. It would apply to both wireless phones and land lines, according to Mr. Pallone, who said he was optimistic about the bill’s chances of winning House and Senate approval and being signed by President Trump.

“At one point, this was just a nuisance. Now there are so many indications that this is putting people in danger,” Mr. Pallone said in an interview Thursday. “You have these scammers now disguised as the I.R.S. You have those that are disguised as police officers. From personal experience, I think it undermines people’s faith in the phone system and they don’t answer.”

The compromise between Democrats and Republicans on the committee came one month after the Senate overwhelmingly approved separate anti-robocall legislation to respond to constituent furor over unwanted calls. Consumer protection advocates said the Senate version did not go far enough to address the problem.

“A lot of calls are scams, and those need to be stopped,” said Margot Saunders, senior counsel for the National Consumer Law Center. “The Republicans and Democrats have recognized they need to be aggressive in addressing robocalls, and this bill is a reflection of that.”

The National Consumer Law Center, a Boston-based nonprofit organization, took part in the drafting of the bill, which is scheduled for discussion next week. The group supported a class-action lawsuit against Hilton Grand Vacations Company, in which consumers accused the company of having humans push a button on its automated dialing system to avoid meeting the Federal Communications Commission’s definition of a robocall. Hilton had disputed that it violated the law and won a federal court judgment, which the plaintiffs appealed in January in federal court.

“If the F.C.C. does what this bill tells it to do, it will stop a lot of the calls, and that’s a big deal,” Ms. Saunders said.

Another key aspect of the legislation would extend the statute of limitations for filing robocall-related complaints with the F.C.C. Consumers now have one year to file. Under the bill, they would get three years — and in some cases, up to four years — to bring a complaint.

A spokesman for the F.C.C. declined to comment Thursday. The White House also declined to comment.

A top lobbying group for the wireless industry signaled its support for the push against robocalls.

“The wireless industry is committed to combating illegal robocalls and protecting consumers, and we thank committee leadership for tackling this important issue,” said Kelly Cole, senior vice president for government affairs at CTIA, a wireless industry trade group based in Washington. “We look forward to working on getting robocall legislation enacted.”

The scourge of robocalls has boosted the popularity of websites such as YouMail, which offers a free robocall blocking app, in addition to paid services. According to YouMail, there were around five billion robocalls in May, about double the number there were two years ago.

Under the legislation, the F.C.C. would be required to report to Congress about its efforts to update a database of phone number changes — so that callers would have a person’s most recent contact information and avoid calling an old phone number.

“They won’t have the excuse anymore when they meant to call you and they called me,” Ms. Saunders said.

Mr. Pallone said Americans had become so fed up with receiving unwanted calls, including from foreign countries, that they could inadvertently miss out on important calls.

“More and more, I just don’t answer the phone,” he said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com