The United States Federal Trade Commission is asking the giants of social media account for their user data practices.
December 11 witnessed the FTC published orders for special reports from unnamed social media companies. The commission's stated aim for the reports is:
"To compile data concerning the privacy policies, procedures, and practices of Social Media and Video Streaming Service providers, including the method and manner in which they collect, use, store, and disclose information about users and their devices."
But the initial order did not mention the names of the companies involved. Monday, the FTC disclosed the order's targeted suspects: Amazon, TikTok's parent firm ByteDance, Discord, Facebook (and separately, subsidiary WhatApp), Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube.
The commission voted 4-1 in favor of releasing these orders, leaving Commissioner Noah Phillips merely showing his dissent. Phillips' main criticism was the scope of the requests: "The biggest problem is that today's 6(b) orders simply cover too many topics to make them likely to result in the production of comparable, usable information."
The Federal Trade Commission Act’s article 6(b) offers non-enforcement subpoenas, so the news of these recent orders does not necessarily indicate that these social media platforms are going to experience any legal action. Big Tech has however been in the crosshairs of the FTC, with the commission filing a suit against Facebook merely last week.
The listed companies have been impacted by other legal actions as well, as the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook defending themselves prior to Congress several times this year, and President Trump trying to get ByteDance to sell TikTok to an American firm. It is reported that this may all be good news for decentralized alternatives.
The firm will have 45 days to respond to the FTC's request.