- The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC)'s probe includes nine social media and video streaming platforms. Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter are also in the list of companies being investigated.
- FTC has ordered these firms to provide details on users' data collection and advertising operations.
- In recent times, US regulators have been giving strong signals to the tech giants to respect American's privacy.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ordered some of the biggest tech companies to hand over information on collecting and using customer data. The probe includes streaming platforms, social media companies, and a gaming giant.
Nine companies were mentioned, including Amazon, Alphabet’s YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, Reddit, Snap, Twitter, ByteDance’s TikTok, and Discord (an online gaming firm).
US regulators issued this order under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act. The FTC has asked these tech giants to turn over the documents related to how they collect, track, and use an individual’s data.
This study is being conducted under the FTC’s authority, not at the law enforcement level, at this point.
As privacy advocates, we at PrivacySavvy believe, things need to change for real now. We have seen such actions taken before, but in the end, these big companies move out of harm’s way. The government should be responsible for implementing these companies’ laws, rather than being guided by their autocratic rule.
What is the FTC demanding from the tech companies?
The FTC is investigating the firms’ user engagement and advertising practices. The U.S. regulator seeks how their practices affect children and teens. The regulator also wants to know their demographic information.
Also, they want to know how data helps big tech to decide which advertisements and content they should show to their consumers.
The FTC is concerned; how these companies use the information and how it drives the engagement for them. This inquiry is all about how the tech firms shape what Americans see, hear, and share online. Essentially, what makes a user so valuable for each company.
Samples of the letter issued to each of the companies are available publicly. The FTC’s action specifies that the U.S. authorities have had enough of this privacy faking from these companies.
On Dec 14, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission, in a statement, said that the use of user’s data by these companies is “shrouded in secrecy.”
The FTC wants to know every single move these firms make to obtain, track, and use consumer data for their benefit. Moreover, they want to see whether any algorithm gets applied to an individual’s personal information.
What’s the response from the big tech?
The increasing privacy concerns have led the FTC to take strict actions. The move that exacerbates Washington’s policy is clear and straightforward: to ensure the user’s privacy.
As per Yahoo Finance, Twitter and Reddit are ready to work along with the FTC to get them the information they want.
Discord seems to be having the same stance, too. The company spokesperson said they are already taking care of their users’ privacy. He also noted they would answer all FTC concerns about the gaming firm’s privacy practices.
The companies have 45-days to respond with all the necessary documents that the US regulators are looking for.
The order was issued following the 4-1 vote, with most commissioners saying that the FTC has acted timely. The commissioners stated,
“The mounting concerns regarding the influence of tech firms on Americans’ privacy have become a grave matter.”
On the other side, there was one dissenting statement from commissioner Philips, a republican, who called this request an undisciplined foray into a wide variety of topics. The commissioner said that the request is so broad that it makes it difficult to get meaningful responses.