The FTC hit Amazon, ByteDance (operators of TikTok), Discord, Facebook, Reddit, Snap, Twitter, WhatsApp and YouTube with the orders that demand the companies provide information on how they use, collect and present personal information. The commission also seeks data on the companies’ advertising and user engagement practices, as well as how their practices impact children and teens.
The companies have 45 days to respond from the date they received the order, the FTC said.
The orders were issued under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act, which authorizes the commission to conduct studies without a specific law enforcement purpose.
Specifically, the government agency said it is seeking information related to how the companies collect and use personal and demographic information, how they decide which ads are shown, whether they apply algorithms to personal information, how they measure user engagement and how all of these practices affect children and teens.
The commission voted 4-1 to issue the orders.
“Never before has there been an industry capable of surveilling and monetizing so much of our personal lives. Social media and video streaming companies now follow users everywhere through apps on their always-present mobile devices,” Commissioners Rohit Chopra, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Christine S. Wilson wrote in a joint statement.
“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? Is this surveillance used to build psychological profiles of users? Predict their behavior? Manipulate experiences to generate ad sales? Promote content to capture attention or shape discourse?” the statement added. “Too much about the industry remains dangerously opaque.”
Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips, the sole dissenter, also issued a statement, arguing this instance was not the proper use of Section 6(b) orders.
The move comes less than a week after the FTC announced a landmark lawsuit against Facebook, accusing the social media giant of anti-competitive practices.