A selection of cubes showing the logos of major big tech websites. The FTC ordered the companies to hand over information on their data practices on Monday.

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FTC demands answers on data collection from 9 biggest tech firms

They sent notices to some of the largest websites and platforms.

Dec 14, 2020, 3:50 pm*



Andrew Wyrich

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said on Monday that it has ordered nine of the largest websites and platforms to hand over information about how it collects data.

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The FTC sent notices to nine companies: Amazon, ByteDance (which operates TikTok), Discord, Facebook, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, and YouTube.

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Specifically, the agency wants to know more about how the companies collect, track, and use personal information; how they determine which ads are shown to users; how they measure user engagement; if they apply algorithms or data analytics to personal information; and how the companies data practices affect children.

That information will be used "to conduct wide-ranging studies that do not have a specific law enforcement purpose," the agency said.

The various companies will have 45 days to answer the questions from the FTC. The FTC commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of issuing the orders to the companies.

"Despite their central role in our daily lives, the decisions that prominent online platforms make regarding consumers and consumer data remain shrouded in secrecy," the four commissioners who voted in favor of the orders said in a joint statement. "Critical questions about business models, algorithms, and data collection and use have gone unanswered. Policymakers and the public are in the dark about what social media and video streaming services do to capture and sell users’ data and attention. It is alarming that we still know so little about companies that know so much about us."

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The move comes just days after the FTC and more than 40 states filed charges against Facebook, alleging that the social media giant had become a monopoly.

The FTC's suit called for Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram to be reversed, saying that they were "anticompetitive."

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*First Published: Dec 14, 2020, 3:48 pm