3 Senate budding denounce big tech. They also have deep ties to it.

For Republicans running for the Senate this year, “big tech” has become a universal target, a phrase used to denounce the censorship of conservative voices on social media, the invasion of privacy, and the corrupting of American youth – or all of the above.

But for three candidates in some of the hottest races of 2022 – Blake Masters, JD Vance and Mehmet Oz – the allegations come with a complication: they have close ties to the industry as investors, promoters or employees. What’s more, their work included some questionable uses for consumer data, which they now criticize.

mr. Masters and Mr. Vance took on the controversy with the zeal of a convert.

“Basically, it was my experience in Silicon Valley and working with these companies that gave me that perspective,” Masters, who will enter the Senate Republican primary in Arizona on Tuesday with a breeze in his back, said Wednesday. “If they have grown, they have become too pervasive and too powerful.”

mr. Vance, on his campaign website for an open seat in the Ohio Senate, calls for the collapse of large technology firms, stating: “I know the technology industry well. I’ve worked on it and invested in it, and I’m sick of politicians talking a lot about big tech but not doing anything about it. The tech industry promised us all a better life and faster communication; instead, it steals our personal information, sells it to the Chinese, and then censors conservatives and others.”

But some tech activists just don’t believe it, especially two political newcomers whose Senate elections were funded by Peter Thiel, Facebook’s first outside investor and longtime board member of the tech giant. mr. Thiel’s own company, Palantir, is working closely with federal military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies seeking access to its secret data analysis technology.

“There is a huge, hugely lucrative industry for tracking what you do online,” said Sasha Haworth, executive director of the Tech Oversight Project, a new liberal group advocating stricter rules for tech companies. “Regardless of these Senate candidates’ prospects, I believe that if Peter Thiel is investing in them, he is investing in his future.”

mr. Masters, Mr. Thiel’s protégé and former COO Mr. Thiel’s venture capital firm oversaw the investment in Palantir and pushed for the spread of its technology, which analyzes mountains of raw data to identify patterns that can be exploited by clients.

Dr. Oz, the Republican nominee for the vacant seat in the Pennsylvania Senate, was part of a consortium of investors that founded Sharecare, a website that offers users the opportunity ask questions about health and wellness — and give healthcare marketers the opportunity to answer them.

Sharecare Feature, Realage testsurveyed tens of millions of users about their health scores, ostensibly to help them shed years, and then published test results for paying customers in the pharmaceutical industry.

mr. Vance, an Ohio Republican candidate and another Thiel student, used Mr. Thiel’s money to build his venture capital firm, Narya Capital, which helped fund Hallow, a Catholic prayer and meditation app. privacy policy allows him to share some user data for targeted advertising.

Vance’s campaign said that a Hallow candidate’s stake did not give him or his firm decision-making power, and Alex Jones, Hallow’s chief executive, said that personal sensitive data, such as diary entries or musings, were encrypted and not sold, not surrendered. not leased or otherwise transferred to anyone. data brokers. He said that “sensitive personal data” was not shared with “any advertising partners”.

All three Senate candidates have targeted the tech industry in their campaigns, opposing data harvesting from unsuspecting users and intrusions into the privacy of greedy firms.

In with transparent video published in July 2021, mr. Masters says: “The Internet, which was supposed to give us a great future, is instead being used to shut us up.”

mr. Vance on campaign facebook videosuggested that Congress make data collection illegal—or at least mandate disclosure—before tech companies “collect our data and then sell it back to us as targeted advertising.”

In December video appearance shortly after he announced his campaign, Dr. Oz proclaimed, “I got into a fight with Big Pharma, I got into a fight with Big Tech, I went up against agrochemicals, the big ones, and I have the scars to prove it.”

Not surprisingly, more candidates for top positions have close ties to the technology industry, said Michael Rosen, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who has written extensively about the industry. That’s where the money is these days, he said, and technology’s reach extends to industries like healthcare, social media, hardware and software, and consumer electronics.

“What’s new in this cycle is that there are supposedly right-wing candidates who are in favor of the government stepping in and regulating these companies because they don’t think they can be trusted to run themselves,” he said. Rosen said.

He expressed surprise that “the free market and conservative candidate believes that the government will more fairly and reliably regulate and curb speech than the private sector would.”

Tech experts on the left say candidates like Mr. Masters and Mr. Vance are Trojan horses, taking popular positions to win federal office without intending to take those positions in the Senate.

Mrs. Haworth, whose group has targeted platforms such as Facebook and Amazon, said states like California are already moving forward with regulations to prevent online marketers from directing consumers to certain products or inappropriately influencing behavior.

She said she thought Republicans, if they took control of Congress, would introduce weak federal rules that would replace state rules.

“Democrats should denounce the hypocrisy here,” she said.

mr. Masters said he was sympathetic to fears that empowering the government to regulate technology would only lead to another kind of abuse, but added: “The answer in this age of networked monopolies is not to put your hands up and yell ‘non-intervention’. ‘ ‘”

Multinational technology companies such as Google and Facebook. Masters said, surpassed national governments in strength.

Regarding the “Trojan horse” claim, he said, “When I’m in the US Senate, I’m going to do whatever I say.”

It is unclear whether such complex issues will affect the fall campaigns. Jim Lamon, Republican Senate challenger. Masters in Arizona, has broadcast advertising portraying him as a “fake” chasing horse for the California tech industry, but with limited effectiveness. In a debate this month, Mr. Lamon said Mr. Masters was the “owner” from his treasurers at Big Tech.

But Mr. Masters, backed by former President Donald J. Trump, appears to be the clear front-runner for the nomination.

Representative Tim Ryan, Mr. Vance’s Democratic opponent in Ohio briefly mentioned “Big Tech Billionaires Drinking Wine in Silicon Valley” and fund the Republican campaign.

John Fetterman, Dr. Democratic opponent. Oz in Pennsylvania didn’t raise the issue.

Taylor Van Kirk, spokesperson for Mr. Vance said he takes his promises to limit the influence of tech companies very seriously.

“JD has long been open about his desire to destroy Big Tech and hold them accountable for their abuses,” she said. “He firmly believes that their power over our politics and economy must be reduced in order to protect the constitutional rights of Americans.”

Representatives for the Oz campaign did not respond to requests for comment.