Data management has always been an issue for many. That is why the United States Federal Trade Commission step in to ask social media giants to account for their data use practices. The main culprits included Facebook and Google.
As from the orders given to social media companies to give their reports on December 11th, the commission clarified the use of the reports is to get all the relevant data concerning the privacy policies, procedures, and social media practices and should include ways they collect, use, store and disclose user information.
The initial order did not name the specific social media companies. On Monday, it made it clear that it targets the main social media companies such as YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook including its subsidiaries WhatsApp, TikTok, Discord, and Reddit. The respective companies have an ultimatum to respond in 45 days though FTC does not intend to publicize their responses.
The commission did a vote whereby the votes were 4-1 in favor of the orders. There was only one commissioner, Noah Philips, who was not in for the idea claiming the requests’ scope was too large for it to be useful. “The biggest problem is that the 6(b) orders have a wide scope for them to have quality comparable useful information,” he said. The three who voted yes agreed that the online world has moved from genuinely supporting user activities to finding ways of monetizing them without consent.
Even though the US FTC has come out so aggressively, it does not mean that the light’s social media platforms will get any legal action. This is evident from the commission Act’s article 6(b), where there is an authorization of non-enforcement subpoenas. The orders given were part of a wide-range investigation and did not have any specific law enforcement purposes.
The order of the companies is at different time frames. In the last week, the commission filed a suit against Facebook, although the company has not publicly admitted that. From the orders given on Monday, the listed companies need to give information on how they do data collection of personal data, how they use the data to decide which ads and content users to show, and the methods they use to apply algorithms or data analysis to personal information.
All the listed companies have other legal actions to respond to as well, apart from that. That has made the CEOs of both Facebook and Twitter clear out their names at the congress severally in the year. On the other hand, Trump has been lobbying for TikTok to be sold to an American firm.
Twitter said that they are working to give FTC the relevant information they need regarding how they ensure data privacy. On the other hand, Discord highlighted that they value privacy; hence they are looking forward to responding to FTC in regards to their privacy practices.
This is not the first time FTC is giving those orders. Back in February, FTC gave an order to big tech companies based on past acquisitions. The culprits were Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet.
The antitrust signals will be a game-changer in the industry. As much as it may not have an immediate impact, it may lead to data protection policies. The tech giants may be forced to be more transparent on data usage. It is also a great chance for them to take advantage of blockchain technology’s decentralization and integrate it into their systems.