Revolution in Political and Digital Landscape

 Political and Digital Landscape
Political and Digital Landscape

Not only is 2020 a major election year, but the tech industry is also bracing for a number of potentially sweeping changes on many fronts around many parts of the U.S.

For starters, 49 states and the U.S. territories have joined Texas in a joint bi-partisan antitrust investigation of Google. This probe is happening in spite of federal investigations into major tech companies. Added to that is New York, which is leading 46 other states in an investigation of Facebook.

Yet another fight continues to loom as 12 states are fighting the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. Originally, 13 states had filed a suit after federal regulators approved the $26 billion mergers, but Texas dropped out last November. Published reports last December said the two companies are renegotiating the agreement.

Consumer Privacy

California took the lead after similar legislation stalled in Congress. The state’s consumer privacy law took effect on the first of this year and some critics are saying certain companies have yet to comply. If true, it will be left to the attorney general to determine the fate of any violators. The legislatures in Washington, Illinois and New York are considering a similar measure.

Facial Recognition

California police departments also have a 3-year ban on facial recognition from body cameras. In addition, the cities of Berkeley and San Francisco also enacted similar bans. Brookline and Somerville, both suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts have identical bans.

Net Neutrality

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for net neutrality laws for his state, in opposition to the Federal Communications Commission’s reversal of Obama-era net neutrality regulations. Two states that have already enacted their own net neutrality rules are in court with the FCC.

Gig Economy

Uber was fined $649 million last November by the state of New Jersey for classifying its drivers as independent contractors instead of employees to avoid paying state employment taxes. If the case is upheld in court, other states are expected to take similar action.

California is executing yet another new law passed that makes it more difficult for companies there to classify workers who freelance or are working on short contracts as contractors devoid of any benefits. Uber and Postmates have filed suit against the state to challenge it.

The District of Columbia is going to court with DoorDash for allegedly misleading the public on how tips are figured into employee pay. At issue is whether a restaurant server who also delivers food via DoorDash is an employee or a contractor. 

In cities like DC, employers can pay employees less than minimum wage if tips make up the difference. DoorDash recently changed its tipping policy but the outcome of the case could retroactively affect many other companies as well.

What to Do

There’s really not much to do but it is critical to keep an eye on what’s being proposed and happening in areas that could affect brands and marketing. The digital privacy law in California is one such example. 

The California experience caught many brands and companies flat-footed. The law gave the attorney general the authority to start the privacy act anytime before July 1, 2020. Most observers assumed that date or perhaps something close to it, but he instead chose to start it sooner than later – January 1, 2020.

The other observation is that many states and some cities seem frustrated by the apparent lack of federal action in certain areas, and are taking it upon themselves to enact legislation that could affect brands and companies. This makes it more important to maintain close contact with customers and clients in every market to hear what’s going on and being proposed, in order to respond as quickly as possible.