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The inquisition begins: FTC prods 9 tech giants about user data collection

(BUSINESS NEWS) The federal agency has requested info on user data collection from 9 companies — including Amazon, Discord, Reddit, Facebook, and YouTube.

User data collection servers being monitored by employee with laptop.

On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requested data on how a user’s information is collected, used, and presented by nine social media and video streaming service providers.

Tech giants, Amazon, TikTok owner ByteDance, Discord, Reddit, Facebook, and YouTube, all received orders from the FTC under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act to inquire about their privacy practices. The order “authorizes the Commission to conduct wide-ranging studies that do not have a specific law enforcement purpose.” The companies have 45 days from the date they received the order to respond.

Some information the FTC is demanding is whether the companies are using algorithms or data analytics to gather personal information. They want to know how companies “determine which ads and other content are shown to consumers” and “how they measure, promote, and research user engagement.” Most importantly, the FTC wants to know if any of these “practices affect children and teens.”

In a vote to get the order passed, the Commission voted 4-1 with Republic Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips dissenting. In a statement, Phillips said, “The breadth of the inquiry, the tangential relationship of its parts, and the dissimilarity of the recipients combine to render these orders unlikely to produce the kind of information the public needs, and certain to divert scarce Commission resources better directed elsewhere.”

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Commissioners Rohit Chopra, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, and Christine S. Wilson who voted for the order, in a joint statement, said, “These digital products may have launched with the simple goal of connecting people or fostering creativity. But, in the decades since, the industry model has shifted from supporting users’ activities to monetizing them. This transition has been fueled by the industry’s increasing intrusion into our private lives.”

The FTC’s move is of no surprise to anyone. This isn’t the first time it has placed big tech companies under the microscope. Early this year, the FTC requested information about past acquisitions made by companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, etc.

The FTC says that “policymakers and the public are in the dark” on how tech companies capture, use, and sell users’ data. And, their “decision to issue a section 6(b) study to assess the practices of social media and video streaming firms is just a step toward getting much-needed clarity.”

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Veronica Garcia has a Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of Science in Radio/TV/Film from The University of Texas at Austin. When she’s not writing, she’s in the kitchen trying to attempt every Nailed It! dessert, or on the hunt trying to find the latest Funko Pop! to add to her collection.

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