FTC orders social media companies to provide details on personal data, advertising

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 action announced Monday goes to the heart of the tech industry’s lucrative business model: harvesting data from platform users and making it available to advertisers so they can pinpoint specific consumers to target.

The agency plans to use the information, due in 45 days, for a comprehensive study.

The other five companies are Reddit, Snap, Discord, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, and Google’s YouTube.

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

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.

“Never before has there been an industry capable of surveilling and monetizing so much of our personal lives,” three of the five FTC commissioners said in a statement. They said the planned study “will lift the hood on the social media and video streaming firms to carefully study their engines.”

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