On December 14, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced in a press release that it is issuing orders under the FTC’s authority in Section 6(b) of the FTC Act to the following nine social media and video streaming companies: Amazon.com, Inc., ByteDance Ltd. (which operates the short video service TikTok), Discord Inc., Facebook, Inc., Reddit, Inc., Snap Inc., Twitter, Inc., WhatsApp Inc., and You Tube LLC.
The FTC made publicly available samples of the letter and order sent to each company. Specifically, the FTC is seeking privacy policies, procedures, and practices related to:
- how social media and video streaming services collect, use, track, estimate, or derive personal and demographic information;
- how they determine which ads and other content are shown to consumers;
- whether they apply algorithms or data analytics to personal information;
- how they measure, promote, and research user engagement; and
- how their practices affect children and teens.
The FTC voted 4-1 to issue the orders with a majority of the commissioners releasing a joint statement saying that the FTC’s study is timely and important as “concerns mount regarding the impact of the tech companies on Americans’ privacy and behavior.” However, Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips issued a dissenting statement, stating that “[t]he breadth of the inquiry, the tangential relationship of its parts, and the dissimilarity of the recipients combine to render these orders unlikely to produce the kind of information the public needs, and certain to divert scarce Commission resources better directed elsewhere.”