Several tech companies were reportedly ordered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Monday to turn over data related to how they use Americans’ private information.
Amazon, Facebook, WhatsApp, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, Discord and Tik Tok are the nine companies that received a letter from the FTC, according to the Wall Street Journal. The letters ordered the companies to share detailed information related to how they track and use private information collected from their users.
The FTC could take action in the future based on the information provided to them, but ordering the companies to turn over the data isn’t a law enforcement action and won’t result in any immediate penalties, according to the Journal. (RELATED: Federal Trade Commission, 48 Attorneys General File Lawsuits Accusing Facebook Of Antitrust Violations)
— FTC (@FTC) December 14, 2020
“Social media and video streaming companies now follow users everywhere through apps on their always-present mobile devices,” FTC Commissioners Rohit Chopra, Rebecca Slaughter and Christine Wilson said in a joint statement reported by the Journal. “This constant access allows these firms to monitor where users go, the people with whom they interact, and what they are doing.”
“But to what end?” they continued. “Too much about this industry remains dangerously opaque.”
Legally, the FTC has broad authority to request the information and enforce policies against unfair business activities. The order was reportedly approved by a 4-1 majority, with Commissioner Noah Phillips dissenting. Phillips said that he agreed with the broader objective but called the order “an undisciplined foray into a wide variety of topics, some only tangentially related to the stated focus of this investigation,” reported the outlet.
“We’re working, as we always do, to ensure the FTC has all the information it needs to understand how Twitter operates its services,” a Twitter spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.
The companies must respond to the FTC within 45 days.