FTC task force to monitor tech giants
| 17 staff attorneys to be appointed to task force.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) is under increasing pressure to watch tech giants like Google and Facebook. Last week, it confirmed that a ‘task force’ would be created, to closely monitor the tech sector and investigate incidents of anticompetitive behaviour.
Some 17 staff attorneys will be appointed to the task force, within the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. Their work will focus on on tech-related merger reviews, investigations and reviews of consummated tech deals.
FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement:
“It makes sense for us to closely examine technology markets to ensure consumers benefit from free and fair competition,”
Bruce Hoffman, head of the Bureau of Competition, has not discounted the possibility of unwinding a consummated deal if anticompetitive conduct was found, but declined to discuss specific transactions.
However, the act of undoing a deal after it has closed is “very rare,” said Henry Su of law firm Constantine Cannon LLP.
Facebook is already being investigated by the FTC, after being accused of violating a 2011 consent decree regarding privacy. Reportedly, the social media giant allowed the personal information of 87 million users to fall into the hands of political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica.
Advocacy groups, including the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, have been urging the FTC to make Facebook unwind its recent purchases of Instagram, an app used for sharing photos, and WhatsApp, a private messaging app.
Representing app developers, The App Association said it looked forward to the task force’s work.
The association’s president, Morgan Reed, commented:
“A robust, competitive environment allows small businesses to fully participate in this economy, with new opportunities emerging at a rapid pace,”
The Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents traditional offline stores, whose businesses have been disrupted by online retailers, said the creation of a task force will “bring needed scrutiny to the relatively few technology platforms that control a growing share of modern commerce.”
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