Justice Department meeting with state officials focuses on data privacy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Justice Department “listening session” with state attorneys general on Tuesday focused on how the government can safeguard consumers online, the Justice Department said after the meeting.

FILE PHOTO: The Department of Justice (DOJ) logo is pictured on a wall after a news conference in New York December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

The group made no immediate plans to file any case or open any investigation, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said after the meeting, which lasted about an hour.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions led the meeting with attorneys general or other representatives from 13 states and the District of Columbia, the department said.

Becerra and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said much of the discussion focused on whether privacy issues can be addressed using antitrust law.

“The conversation really zeroed in on privacy,” Becerra said.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers remarks to the Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice Opioid Research Summit in Washington, U.S., September 25, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago

Hood, whose office has already sued Google, said that he would like to see private information treated like intellectual property.

“There’s a long history of antitrust litigation that has made the marketplace better,” he said.

The meeting, first announced on Sept. 5, was called by Sessions to discuss whether social media companies have intentionally stifled “the free exchange of ideas.”

The discussion had been expected to focus on companies like Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Google owner Alphabet Inc, which have been accused by some conservatives of seeking to exclude their ideas.

Hood said that a “minute” portion of the meeting was focused on the issue of potential, online political bias.

Becerra said he expects a larger group of state attorneys general to address the issue at an upcoming meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Sarah N. Lynch; writing by Diane Bartz; editing by Bill Rigby and Marguerita Choy

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