Big Tech companies like Apple and Facebook have lately had a contentious relationship with regulators and lawmakers over issues like privacy, use of personal data and perceived bias. At times, the firms have pushed back against the idea that they need to be regulated.
However, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal, the companies have changed their tune and are now asking for regulation, perhaps realizing that the change in tide is inevitable and that it’s better to work with regulators than against them.
Many companies are facing probes and pushback against things like artificial intelligence (AI) and the monitoring of content. Google’s parent Alphabet, along with Facebook and Apple, are now calling for new laws on myriad issues, despite the fact that they have worked against regulation of those issues in the past.
The topic was discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week. Executives at top companies want to help shepherd the new initiatives in their favor as much as possible, as opposed to being beholden to a number of different laws in different countries.
Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said solutions shouldn’t come from tech CEOs. “These are the kinds of things that need to arrive at legislative solutions, versus individual CEOs of individual companies having to sort of come up with answers to what is a big, massive, societal challenge,” he said.
Illustrating the issue is a recent conflict between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Apple over the unlocking of a phone used to commit a terrorist act. The head of the department, Attorney General William Barr, wants Apple to create a “backdoor” into its phones so law enforcement will have access when needed. So far, Apple has refused to do so, saying that it will allow access for bad actors around the globe.
Other leaders in tech also spoke about the need for regulation. “There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated,” said Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai. “The question is how best to approach this.”