New Internet Bill of Rights Introduced in Wake of Digital Privacy Breaches

Facebook and Google recently admitted major privacy breaches. Facebook says the personal information of nearly 50 million users was exposed after an online attack. Meanwhile, Google is shutting down its social network Google Plus after revelations of a data breach that exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users. The breach was discovered in March but was not disclosed to the public. We speak to Rep. Ro Khanna who recently introduced an Internet Bill of Rights.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our conversation with Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna. I want to switch gears from Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, to talk about Amazon, which recently became the country’s second $1 trillion company. On October 2nd, a video went viral showing an Amazon senior vice president telling hundreds of Amazon workers the company’s minimum wage was being increased to $15 an hour.

UKNOWN: [inaudible] that we are also establishing a new Amazon minimum wage of $15 an hour.

EMPLOYEES: [cheers]

UNKNOWN: [inaudible]

AMY GOODMAN: Amazon’s embrace of a $15 an hour minimum wage made headlines, was praised by many in Washington and all over the country. But it turns out Amazon’s new pay structure might result in lower take-home compensation for many workers because Amazon is removing some incentive-based bonuses and stock options. Congressman Ro Khanna, you’re the author of the Stop BEZOS Act in Congress. Can you talk about this latest news?

REP. RO KHANNA: Sure. Well, Senator Bernie Sanders and I, about four weeks ago, introduced the Stop BEZOS Act, which was very simple. We said if you’re working at a billion-dollar company and you’re not making enough to be able to afford food and you’re reliant on public benefits like food stamps, then the taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for that; the company should be paying for that. And we publicly called on Jeff Bezos to raise wages to $15, to look to the model of Henry Ford who did that in 1914.

Jeff Bezos, to our surprise and to his credit, responded. He raised wages to $15. I think he saw all of these Amazon workers who courageously were testifying. Our bill, by the way, was panned by all of the Beltway economists, but it did put pressure on Bezos and I do think 350,000 people are going to get a raise. Now, you are correct that they have taken away some of the bonuses and grants to stock options. I don’t think they should have done that. I do think that’s going to hurt a small number of workers, and I hope they’ll reconsider that. But in the aggregate, this is a huge raise for many, many workers, and my hope is Walmart, McDonald’s and other industries will follow.

AMY GOODMAN: The salary change will not apply to contract workers. That’s right? Just salary workers. The majority of Amazon workers are contract.

REP. RO KHANNA: That is correct. It applies to part-time workers, it applies to about 350,000 workers but it does not apply to contract workers. And you raise an excellent point: contract workers are being underpaid, not just at Amazon, but many places in my district in Silicon Valley where they are not being able to unionize and they’re not getting benefits, and that is a huge issue for our society.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Khanna, I also want to ask you about the fallout from last week’s Facebook data breach announcement, which continues as the company is rushing to reassure users that there is no evidence that hackers were able to access third-party apps such as Instagram, Spotify or The New York Times, which many people access via their Facebook accounts. The breach may have affected up to 50 million users. And we should point out you are a congressmember from California, from Silicon Valley.

REP. RO KHANNA: Absolutely. This is why I have called for an Internet Bill of Rights. I just released it with Tim Berners-Lee, who was the founder of the world wide web, with some very simple principles. That people should know what is happening to their data. People should be notified if there is a breach. People should have the right to consent before their data is collected. It has been a year since the Cambridge Analytica—or six months since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a year since the Equifax scandal and now there are new breaches with Facebook, with Google. It is time that the Congress do something. We have laid out a ten-part principles for rights for folks online and I believe this has to be a top priority for the next Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google will shut down its social network, Google+, after revelations of a data breach that exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users. The breach was discovered in March but was not disclosed to the public. An internal Google memo showed executives were worried they’d face new regulations if news of the data breach got out. Congressmember Khanna?

*REP. RO KHANNA: Well, that’s unacceptable, and it’s why we need an Internet Bill of Rights. One of the bill of rights is that you have to be notified in a timely manner, within 24 to 48 hours. And if the breach were discovered in March, people would have, by law, been required to be notified in March. And they would have known where their data was sent and what that data was used for. Right now, there are no laws. Obviously, Google should have acted more responsibly, but I also blame the United States Congress, because we have not required these laws. Europe has, with the GDPR, and it’s time that the United States Congress act to protect people online.

AMY GOODMAN: Ro Khanna, we want to thank you for being with us, Democratic congressmember from California. He has called for congressional hearings into possible Saudi complicity in the disappearance and the probable murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He has been a leading critic of U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. He has also introduced the Internet Bill of Rights.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the remarkable story of Henrietta Lacks. Johns Hopkins University has just named a building for her. We will speak with her grandson and with the woman who made—her granddaughter—and the woman who made her story known around the world, Rebecca Skloot, who wrote the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Stay with us.