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Silicon Valley’s Rep. Ro Khanna talks tech regulation on The Vergecast

Democrats have taken back the House — now what?

Reps Carolyn Maloney And Ro Khanna Announce New Sexual Harassment Legislation Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

On this week’s interview episode, Nilay is joined by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Verge policy reporter Makena Kelly to discuss Congress’ plans to regulate Big Tech in the new year. Earlier this month, Democrats were able to take back a majority in the House of Representatives, and after blockbuster events this year like Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, lawmakers are gearing up to rein in these Silicon Valley giants.

Khanna, who represents the California district that houses the Apple and Google campuses, was tasked with developing a set of principles these companies should abide by when it comes to issues like privacy, net neutrality, and anti-competitive behavior. He made the rounds, consulting with think tanks, the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, and the tech companies themselves. From those discussions, Khanna was able to put forth a framework of 10 rights US citizens should have when they’re on the internet.

Khanna’s set of principles is called the “Internet Bill of Rights,” and with Democrats recapturing the House, tech leaders like Khanna have a chance to codify ideas like these into laws.

Below is a brief, edited transcript of their conversation on how Congress might be able to legislate regulations.

Nilay Patel: What should people expect from tech policy, from privacy, from net neutrality legislation? How should people expect the new Congress to handle these issues?

Rep. Ro Khanna: Well, they should expect action. There was no action taken in the last Congress after massive breaches of people’s data, whether that was Equifax or Facebook or, more recently, Google. People want to have some assurance that their privacy, their data is going to be protected. This stuff isn’t rocket science. We know what we need. We need a basic protection for people having access to their data and knowing where their data is. They should be notified if there is a breach. They should be able to move their data. I expect that [the House of Representatives’] Energy and Commerce Committee will take this up, and we should get something passed within six months, at least, through that committee. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) already has a bill that has some of these principles in it. And I think if we can’t deliver, we should consider changing the leadership of that committee. But the committee needs to deliver.

So is that priority number one — data privacy, data transparency?

In terms of technology. The House caucus has the priorities of health care, minimum wage, infrastructure. But in terms of technology, having privacy and data security for people online is something that we should pass first.