Senate Democrats Press Regulators Over Big Tech

A group of Senate Democrats are pressing regulators to break with protocol and disclose whether they are investigating large tech companies over potential antitrust violations.

“We understand that, under its internal policies, the FTC typically refrains from commenting on nonpublic investigations, but these circumstances are far from typical,” Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Patrick Leahy (Vermont), Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Cory Booker (New Jersey), Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), Edward Markey (Massachusetts), and Tina Smith (Minnesota) write to FTC Chair Joe Simons. “The significant public interest in and allegations surrounding the business conduct of Big Tech and the leaks concerning the clearance process relating to potential investigations of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have made these matters highly unusual.”

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The lawmakers sent a similar letter to Makan Delrahim, who heads the Justice Department's antitrust division.

The senators also told Simons and Delrahim they were expected to appear at a July 23 antitrust subcommittee hearing.

Earlier this month, press reports emerged stating that the FTC is investigating Facebook and Amazon, and the DOJ is investigating Google and Apple. The lawmakers say they were “encouraged” by the reports, but also “somewhat troubled that such inquiries were not already well underway.”

The letters come as Silicon Valley is facing increasing scrutiny on a variety of fronts. Some critics have said the largest tech companies wield too much power due to their size.

Critics have also called for regulators to curb data collection by Big Tech.

The lawmakers are asking the FTC and DOJ a host of questions, including whether they have any open antitrust investigations into Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. If so, the lawmakers want to know the “nature and general scope” of the probe.

FTC investigations aren't usually public, but the agency recently took the rare step of confirming that it was probing Facebook's data transfers to political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which obtained information for up to 87 million users of the social networking service.

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