FTC orders Amazon, Facebook and others to explain how they collect and use personal data

The Federal Trade Commission is requiring nine tech companies to share information about how they collect and use data from their users, the agency announced Monday.

Amazon, TikTok owner ByteDance, Discord, Facebook and its subsidiary WhatsApp, Reddit, Snap, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube were each sent orders to hand over information about their data practices. The companies have 45 days to respond from the date they received the orders.

Along with details about how the services collect and use data, the agency is seeking information about how how they determine which ads to show their users, whether algorithms or data analytics are used on personal information, how they “measure promote, and research” engagement from users and how their data practices impact children and teens.

The FTC is using its authority under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act, which allows it to pursue broad studies separate from law enforcement. The agency launched a separate 6(b) study earlier this year to examine past acquisitions by Google parent Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft that would not have been subject to pre-reporting rules for mergers. Chairman Joe Simons said at the time that while a 6(b) study is not connected to an enforcement action, the merger review could “definitely could inform enforcement.”

The FTC filed charges last week against Facebook alleging the company has unlawfully maintained a monopoly in personal social networking services. The lawsuit, filed alongside a separate complaint from a group of 48 states and territories, claims Facebook bought up nascent rivals like Instagram and WhatsApp that it feared would enter its core business area. The enforcers claim Facebook’s actions have harmed consumers in part by diluting the quality of services available, including based on features like privacy. Facebook called the lawsuit “revisionist history” of its two major acquisitions which the FTC itself allowed to go through.

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Lauren Feiner PUBLISHED MON, DEC 14 20202:57 PM ESTUPDATED TUE, DEC 15 20209:47 AM EST
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