FTC Probing Big Tech/AI Partnerships

The Federal Trade Commission said Thursday it is investigating how partnerships between large tech businesses and artificial intelligence companies could affect competition.

The agency sent so-called “6b” orders -- equivalent to subpoenas -- to the tech companies Microsoft, Amazon and Google, and artificial intelligence businesses OpenAI and Anthropic. Those orders seek information about deals between  Microsoft and OpenAI, Amazon and Anthropic, and Google and Anthropic.

Microsoft reportedly promised to invest $13 billion in OpenAI, while Google has said it will invest up to $2 billion in Anthropic, and Amazon has said it will invest up to $4 billion in Anthropic and also take a minority ownership stake.

“We face basic questions of power and governance,” Khan said Thursday at a virtual tech summit addressing artificial intelligence. 

“Will this be a moment of opening up markets to fair and free competition, unleashing the full potential of emerging technologies, or will a handful of dominant firms concentrate control over these key tools, locking us into a future of their choosing?” she asked. 

“The outcome will be the direct result of policy choices that we make now,” she continued.

The FTC is demanding a host of detailed information about the partnerships, as well as the companies' plans for the future. Among other questions, the FTC asks the companies about decisions regarding access to products and services, subjects of regular meetings, and oversight arrangements.

“There's no AI exemption from the laws on the books and we're looking closely at the ways companies may be using their power to thwart fair competition or trick the public," Khan said.

Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter added that she worries the “concentration of AI models” could pose “enormous risk” including to privacy.

The agency is requesting responses to the 6B orders by mid-February.

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