cryptocurrency with the google logo on it

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Digital rights groups demand Congress investigate Google’s plans to enter crypto market

'Confirms our fears...'


Mikael Thalen


Posted on Mar 21, 2022   Updated on Apr 6, 2022, 2:20 pm CDT

Digital rights organizations are calling on Congress to investigate Google over its plans to enter the cryptocurrency market.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai revealed last month that the tech giant was “definitely looking at blockchain,” raising concerns among civil liberties groups that such a move could negatively impact consumers.

The Demand Progress Education Fund (DPEF), a social welfare entity, argued specifically that Google’s influence could lead to issues with “privacy rights, consumer protections and safeguards against economic concentration.”

“Google’s announced intentions to invest in crypto markets confirms our fears that Big Tech firms continue to seek inroads into the digital assets space and aim to use their data-harvesting methods to deliver financial services in ways that are likely to increase surveillance, erode privacy and allow these companies to dominate yet another economic and social sphere,” said Mark Hays, a senior policy analyst with the DPEF.

In a letter to Congress on Monday, 17 national advocacy groups urged the House Financial Services Committee to hold a hearing on Google’s intended actions. The letter notes that Congress previously held such a hearing regarding Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans, which were later scrapped after significant pushback.

“To ensure that Google’s foray into the ‘crypto ecosystem’ does not come at the expense of consumers, privacy rights and the public interest, we urge the House Committee on Financial Services to hold another hearing that examines Google’s activity in the field with the same degree of scrutiny,” the letter reads.

The letter also points to “Google’s documented history of deceiving consumers and violating user privacy rights” as well as ongoing investigations across the country into the tech giant’s “monopolistic behavior.”

The call to action follows an executive order issued by President Joe Biden last week which called on the government to study the risks posed by digital currencies.  

“Without ongoing vigilance and response from policymakers, dominant market entrants like Google, along with the broader cryptocurrency industry, may succeed in taking advantage of existing policy and regulatory gaps to set the terms for such debates in ways that benefit their market expansion goals – whether or not those terms benefit consumers, investors, and the public,” the letter concludes.

It remains to be seen whether Congress will apply the same pressure to Google over its cryptocurrency aims that it did with Facebook.

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*First Published: Mar 21, 2022, 12:04 pm CDT