Agency homing in on social media companies’ data collection

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal regulators are ordering Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, TikTok’s parent and five other social media companies to provide detailed information on how they collect and use consumers’ personal data and how their practices affect children and teens.

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) action announced on Monday goes to the heart of the tech industry’s lucrative business model: harvesting data from platform users and making it available to online advertisers so they can pinpoint specific consumers to target. The other five companies are Reddit, Snap, Discord, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, and Google’s YouTube.

Regulators and lawmakers are increasingly weaving their concerns over data power and privacy into their investigations of Big Tech companies’ market dominance.

When the FTC and 48 states and districts filed landmark antitrust lawsuits against Facebook last week, accusing it of abusing its market power to crush smaller competitors, they also alleged that the company’s conduct has harmed consumers’ data privacy.

Facebook, the largest social network, gets the bulk of its revenue — which reached USD70.7 billion last year — from online ads.

With its new request, the FTC wants to know how social media and video streaming services collect, use and track consumers’ personal and demographic information, how they decide which ads and other content are shown to consumers, whether they apply algorithms or data analytics to personal information, how they measure and promote user engagement and how their practices affect children and teens.