Business News at a Glance
Posted April 11, 2018 10:26 p.m. EDT
Facebook Chief Faces Hostile Congress as Calls for Regulation Mount
After two days of questioning of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, there was widespread consensus among lawmakers that social media technology — and its potential for abuse — had far outpaced Washington and that Congress should step in to close the gap. “While Facebook has certainly grown, I worry it has not matured,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “I think it is time to ask whether Facebook may have moved too fast and broken too many things.” Zuckerberg, noncommittal about making any sweeping privacy changes, conceded that it was “inevitable that there will need to be some regulation.”
How the Social Media Giant Uses Personal Data
Facebook meticulously scrutinizes the minutiae of its users’ online lives, and its tracking stretches beyond the company’s well-known targeted advertisements. Details that people readily volunteer — age, employer, relationship status, likes and location — are just the start. Facebook tracks both its users and nonusers on other sites and apps. It collects biometric facial data without users’ explicit “opt-in” consent. And the sifting of users can get personal. Among many possible target audiences, Facebook offers advertisers 1.5 million people “whose activity on Facebook suggests that they’re more likely to engage with/distribute liberal political content” and nearly 7 million Facebook users who “prefer high-value goods in Mexico.”
White House Seeks Quick NAFTA Deal but Resists Ceding Ground on Auto Rules
The Trump administration is pushing to reach a deal on the North American Free Trade Agreement by the beginning of May. But the timeline could be complicated by its refusal to budge from contentious proposals aimed at bringing manufacturing back to the United States. While the administration has removed a requirement about the percentage of a car that must be made in the United States, it has added other rules that North American automakers say could be costly and complicated to meet. The proposal is throwing a wrinkle into recently revived talks with Canada and Mexico.
Fed Expresses Concerns Over Trade and Tax Cuts
Federal Reserve Board policymakers raised concerns at their March meeting about the prospect of the United States heading into a global trade war, zeroing in on potential harm to American farmers such a clash would cause, according to minutes of the meeting released Wednesday. The officials also expressed uncertainty about how newly enacted tax cuts would affect the economy, partly because the cuts are expected to exacerbate the swelling of federal budget deficits, and because some of the cuts are to expire in the years ahead. Policymakers also expressed confidence in the strength of the country’s economic recovery, even accounting for trade and tax uncertainties.
No, Experts Say, They Don’t Back U.S. Tariffs
President Donald Trump’s advisers insist that the economics profession is solidly behind the administration’s threat to impose tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese imports. Many top economists say, no, they’re not. Across the ideological spectrum, trade experts and former top economic advisers to presidents say Trump is right to highlight issues on which China is widely viewed as an offender, such as intellectual-property theft and access to its domestic market. But many of those experts say Trump’s planned tariffs would backfire — by raising costs to American businesses and consumers, and by inviting retaliation against American exporters.
Startup Challenges Equifax on Verifying Employment
A startup is taking on Equifax’s employee verification service. The new company, Truework, will try to compete with an Equifax service known as The Work Number, which helps employers handle all the notices they receive from banks and other entities that want to verify a person’s employment history and salary. The gears of consumer credit can’t function well without this process, but it’s a pain for employers and, as a result, a lucrative business for Equifax. Equifax claims to help more than 5,500 employers with its Work Number service. But after several breaches at Equifax, some companies are reconsidering their relationships with the data provider.
Steep Slide in Currency Sets Off a Panic in Iran
All this week, panicked Iranians have gathered outside banks and other financial businesses hoping to buy dollars, as the government seeks to head off a collapse in the rial, the national currency. In an effort to stop the run on foreign exchange, the government has forbidden anyone to hold more than the equivalent of $10,000 in dollars or euros. The rial lost 35 percent of its value this week and hit what has been widely described as a record low. The government is seeking to impose an exchange rate of 42,000 to the dollar, but in Tehran’s black-market exchanges this week the going rate was 60,000.