Karen Petrou: The Three Top Priorities for CFPB’s Bigtech Rewrite

2023-06-05T14:00:57-04:00October 25th, 2021|The Vault|

In early 2019, FedFin issued a report highlighting an array of hazards as bigtech’s “surveillance capitalism” business model increasingly subsumed financial services.  On Thursday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finally took the first step  – a giant step – towards the wholesale rewrite of the U.S. bigtech industry that’s only become still more urgent.  Finance is structurally, systemically, and equitably different when someone who tracks what kind of underwear we like also knows how much money we have, where we spend it, and who holds it.  Given this, the Bureau’s full-bore attack on bigtech may well realign the sector’s competitive construct not just in the U.S., but also around the world.  This can be for the way-better if the Bureau picks its targets well and stands its ground under the ruthless barrage sure to start at hearings later this week.

That the CFPB contemplates an incoming fusillade is clear from its order.  All it demands of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, PayPal, and Square makes daunting reading even if one doesn’t have to fill in seventeen pages of penetrating questions and provide all the supporting documentation demanded on each one of them.  Tech platforms are told to hand over memos, names, product numbers, contracts, operating manuals, and pretty much anything else anyone might think of for any aspect of recent bigtech operation that touches consumer finance.  The full scope of all these data demands is stunning, but perhaps the most interesting among them focus on data harvesting, surveillance-based advertising, targeted offers, …