The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday issued orders to nine companies requiring them to provide the U.S. agency with data on how they “collect, use, and present personal information, their advertising and user engagement practices, and how their practices affect children and teens.” The demand for data was made under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act, which gives the agency the power to to conduct “studies that do not have a specific law enforcement purpose.”
The orders were sent to Amazon (Twitch, Amazon Prime), ByteDance (TikTok owner), Discord, YouTube, Facebook (Facebook, WhatsApp), Snap, Reddit, and Twitter. The companies will have 45 days from the receipt of the order to comply, the FTC said.
The information sought from these streaming and social media services includes how they “collect, use, track, estimate, or derive personal and demographic information;” how they decide to show ads to consumers; if they apply “algorithms or data analytics to personal information;” how they research, measure, and promote user engagement; and how their practices “affect children and teens.”
The Commission voted 4-1 to issue the order. In a dissenting statement, Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips summed up his opinion that the order was too broad:
“Gaining information about social media and video streaming services is important to our mission to protect consumers. That is not, however, an excuse to forego thoughtfulness and restraint in doing so. The orders issued today will allow the Commission to say it is asking a large number of important questions of a number (nine) of high-profile companies. At the end of the day, however, these orders make us unlikely to be able to answer those questions.”
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