Today, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it has ordered nine social media and video streaming companies to detail how these tech companies collect, use, and present personal data; how they use that data to advertise; and how they measure user engagement. This appears to be part of a 6(b) study Chairman Simons previewed in March 2019. Public Knowledge previously urged the FTC to conduct such a study and commends the move to shine a light on the competitive impacts of these data practices.
As explained by the FTC, Section 6(b) of the FTC Act “authorizes the Commission to conduct wide-ranging studies that do not have a specific law enforcement purpose.” These studies enable the agency to broadly review an industry practice and compel information from witnesses, giving the agency a more detailed and comprehensive view for targeting enforcement, supporting effective policymaking, and educating the public.
The following can be attributed to Charlotte Slaiman, Competition Policy Director at Public Knowledge:
“The massive collection and exploitation of user data is a key ingredient in Big Tech platforms’ power. I’m glad to see the FTC is moving forward with this study focusing on platforms’ use of consumer data. This study must consider and review the competition impacts of how this data is collected, held, shared, and used. This study provides a great opportunity to identify how consumer data access, use, and flows within or between companies further entrench dominant firms like Google and Facebook. The FTC should use this study to identify and support public policy on consumer data that actually promotes competition against powerful gatekeeper firms.”
You may view our latest blog post, “Time for the FTC to Study Data and Labor Market Competition Issues,” for more information on what a data practices study should entail. You may also view our post, “Data Protection is About Power, Not Just Privacy,” for more information on the importance of consumer data in platform competition.