Rep. Gaetz grills former GOP lawmaker over Disney data

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 09: Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) arrives for a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing with members of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee on Capitol Hill on December 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. The U.S. Army has fired or suspended 14 leaders at Fort Hood following an investigation into the death of Specialist Vanessa Guillén and numerous other deaths and reports of sexual abuse on the military base. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 09: Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) arrives for a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing with members of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee on Capitol Hill on December 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

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UPDATED 12:30 PM PT – Thursday, July 21, 2022

A House committee recently discussed the ethics of user data in the hands of government and Big Business. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) took his former colleague to task on Tuesday when he asked Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) about his current work as a lobbyist for Disney. The hearing focused on the consequences of corporations tracking and selling user data to governments or law enforcement. Gaetz said he was worried about private entities trying to “program” people and “make them think a certain way” by harmfully utilizing people’s data.

“Like particularly with the Walt Disney corporation that it is in business with the Chinese Communist Party,” Gaetz said.

Goodlatte said he did not know about the accusations Gaetz leveled and that he couldn’t comment on them. Gaetz went on to bring up a conversation that the pair had as members in the Capitol Hill Club, D.C.’s prime private hang-out spot for Republican lawmakers.

“Chairman Goodlatte, do you remember a conversation you and I had?” Gaetz questioned. “When you led this committee at the Capitol Hill Club where you said, ‘The best way to be successful in the Judiciary Committee is to find interest groups that are opposed to one another and to tell both of them that you’ll support their positions, so they’ll both make donations?’”

A class-action lawsuit was filed against The Walt Disney Company on Thursday, April 3 in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. The suit alleges that the embedded technology, known as “software development kits” were collecting data on children in secret to facilitate behavioral advertising or marketing analysis.

“As a company long-engaged in the practice of engaging and profiting from children, Disney needs to make sure its games and apps comply with the law,” voiced Michael Sobol, an attorney filing on behalf of the plaintiffs. “They and the companies they work with always have to obtain verifiable parental consent before extracting kids data from their mobile devices when kids play Disney’s mobile apps.”

Disney came under fire for violating the privacy of children and tracking their activities on Disney apps with the intent to sell the information. They are on a mission to use big data and machine learning to optimize their guests experience. The data industry that tracks and sells information on online activities will be worth $270 billion by 2026.

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