The Federal Trade Commission has some questions, and Amazon, TikTok, Discord, Facebook, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, and YouTube better have answers.
Some of the largest social media companies in the world were officially placed under the spotlight Monday, as the FTC announced a “wide-ranging” study into how the companies use personal information and drive user engagement, and how children might be swept up in the process. Notably, this is separate from the FTC lawsuit alleging Facebook illegally maintains a monopoly, and is not tied to a specific law enforcement action — a fact that makes the probe all the more interesting.
“Despite their central role in our daily lives, the decisions that prominent online platforms make regarding consumers and consumer data remain shrouded in secrecy,” said FTC commissioners Rohit Chopra, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, and Christine S. Wilson in a joint statement. “It is alarming that we still know so little about companies that know so much about us.”
The FTC voted 4 to 1 to issue the orders, with Donald Trump-nominated Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips the sole opposition vote.
We reached out to Facebook (which owns WhatsApp), Twitter, Amazon, Snap, Google (which owns YouTube), TikTok, and Discord for comment.
“We’re working, as we always do, to ensure the FTC has the information it needs to understand how Twitter operates its services,” replied a Twitter spokesperson.
“Discord takes user privacy very seriously and we look forward to working with the FTC to answer their questions about our privacy practices,” a Discord spokesperson noted over email. “Importantly, there are no ads on Discord. We make no money from advertising, selling user data to advertisers, or sharing users’ personal information with others.”
None of the other companies we contacted immediately responded.
While the investigation may be broad, there are several specific topics the FTC says its pursuing:
•how social media and video streaming services collect, use, track, estimate, or derive personal and demographic information;
•how they determine which ads and other content are shown to consumers;
whether they apply algorithms or data analytics to personal information;
•how they measure, promote, and research user engagement; and
•how their practices affect children and teens.
The technology giants have 45 days to respond to the FTC’s order. We reached out to the FTC to determine what happens if the companies don’t respond by that deadline, and spokesperson explained that the courts are always an option.
“The FTC will work with the companies to ensure they respond in a timely manner,” noted the spokesperson. “However, if a company fails to respond, the FTC has the authority to go to court to enforce its orders.”
In other words, the commissioners are going to get their answers — one way, or another.
“The FTC wants to understand how business models influence what Americans hear and see, with whom they talk, and what information they share,” wrote the commissioners.
Which, hey, don’t we all.
UPDATE: Dec. 14, 2020, 2:03 p.m. PST: This story has been updated with a statement from Discord, and a statement from an FTC spokesperson.
ที่มา : Mashable