FTC To Rethink Approach To Big Tech

The Federal Trade Commission plans to hold wide-ranging hearings across the country to examine whether to revise its approach to enforcement in light of new technologies and business practices.

“When the FTC periodically engages in serious reflection and evaluation, we are better able to promote competition and innovation, protect consumers, and shape the law, so that free markets continue to thrive," Chairman Joe Simons said Wednesday in a statement.

The agency suggested that it plans to focus on topics including the relationship between privacy and Big Data, as well as the impact that large technology companies have on competitors and consumers.

The FTC specifically solicited comments from the public on 11 questions. Among other topics, the agency wants to hear opinions on "competition and consumer protection issues in communication, information, and media technology networks," and about the "intersection between privacy, big data, and competition."

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The agency also is asking about its "remedial authority to deter unfair and deceptive conduct in privacy and data security matters," the role of intellectual property in innovation, and the implications for consumers associated with artificial intelligence.

While the FTC didn't name any specific companies Wednesday, the agency asked at least one question that suggests regulators are examining whether the largest technology businesses are violating antitrust law. Specifically, the FTC asked about how to identify and measure market power and entry barriers, and how to evaluate predatory conduct, "in markets featuring 'platform' businesses."

The initiative comes as critics of some of Silicon Valley's largest companies are increasingly arguing that they engage in anti-competitive behavior. It also comes as the FTC is examining whether Facebook violated a 2011 agreement by allegedly enabling President Trump's consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, to harvest data from up to 87 million users. 

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