FTC Probes TikTok, Snap, Amazon and Twitter on User Data Collection

Rachel Uranga

Rachel Uranga is dot.LA's Managing Editor, News. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.

FTC Probes TikTok, Snap, Amazon and Twitter on User Data Collection
Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

The Federal Trade Commission ordered TikTok, Snap, YouTube, Amazon and Twitter, along with four other social media and streaming sites to turn over information about how they collect and use information about users.

The far-reaching probe is aimed at exposing the algorithms and other tools that have fueled the technology companies' growth and helped them penetrate so deeply into the American psyche.

"Policymakers and the public are in the dark about what social media and video streaming services do to capture and sell users' data and attention. It is alarming that we still know so little about companies that know so much about us," three Federal Trade Commissioner said in a joint statement.


Discord, Facebook, Reddit and WhatsApp were also named in the order.

In launching the probe, the three said it "will lift the hood on the social media and video streaming firms." These social media companies, they argue, turned from a force to connect people to one that is monetizing Americans' private lives for their own financial gain.

The orders were issued under a provision of the Federal Trade Commission Act, Section 6(b), that gives the commission authority to conduct wide-ranging studies that don't have "a specific law enforcement purpose."

The companies have 45 days to respond.

Neither TikTok, which is based in Los Angeles and owned by China-based ByteDance, nor Santa Monica-based Snap responded to a request for comment.

The orders come as big tech companies are under increasing scrutiny from policymakers.

The FTC slapped Facebook with an antitrust lawsuit last month that accused the social media giant of gobbling up rivals like Instagram to weaken competition. And in October, the Department of Justice brought a civil case against Google, accusing the tech giant of having an illegal monopoly on search functionality and its associated advertising.

"We have reached a point of maturity or sophistication and usage where it's time for the government to ask questions about what information is being collected and how it's being used," said Karen North, a former official at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Clinton administration. "Knowing there is so much information that's been collected, the question becomes how is it being used to manipulate people and is there the kind of transparency demanded by regulation of traditional media."

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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Motional Links With Uber to Make Robotaxis a Reality

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Motional
Image courtesy of Motional

Motional, a self-driving taxi startup backed by Hyundai, will partner with Uber to bring its robotic taxis to cities throughout the United States within the next decade as part of its push to get people more comfortable with the concept of taking a ride in a driverless electric vehicle.

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