The FTC hires the companies behind many of the biggest social and video platforms to explain how they leverage the treasure trove of data they collect from users. Amazon, TikTok owner ByteDance, Facebook, WhatsApp, Discord, Reddit, Snap, Twitter and YouTube received the order with a notice period of 45 days.
The FTC's focus is on how these companies “collect, use and present personal information, how they engage with advertisers and users, and how their practices affect children and young people”. Four of the FTC commissioners voted in favor of the order, with Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips disagreeing.
"Despite their central role in our daily lives, the decisions that leading online platforms make regarding consumers and consumer data remain secret," said Commissioners Rohit Chopra, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Christine S. Wilson in a joint statement.
“… Policymakers and the general public don't know what social media and video streaming services are doing to capture and sell the data and user attention. It is alarming that we still know so little about companies that know so much about us. "
The FTC's new intelligence mission is the latest federal move to put technology in its crosshairs after it was revealed last week that the agency was suing Facebook for antitrust violations. The new ordinance was enacted as a study of technology industry practices under Section 6 (b) of the FTC Act. It's not linked to law enforcement, but that doesn't stop the agency from pursuing enforcement options with what it finds.
Over the past year, the FTC has signaled a deeper interest in technology, particularly on antitrust issues. The agency has created a purpose-built tech task force to oversee acquisitions and other potential anti-competitive behavior that is raising red flags. In early 2020, the FTC launched a comprehensive separate study examining acquisitions of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft worth nearly a decade.