The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is set to launch a tech task force that will monitor competition in the US tech market, per announcement from commissioners. The task force will have 17 staff attorneys and will be in-charge of scrutinizing technology industry practices. Additionally the task force will consult with the larger FTC staff on issues that includes past and present potential mergers. One technical fellow will provide expertise on various investigations will also be on board, per FTC release.
“The role of technology in the economy and in our lives grows more important every day,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement. “As I’ve noted in the past, it makes sense for us to closely examine technology markets to ensure consumers benefit from free and fair competition.”
Timing of Task Force
The timing of the new task force is interesting. There is increasing pressure for antitrust action against large tech companies like Google and Facebook. The social media giant, Facebook, is already facing a potential multibillion-dollar fine from the FTC for violating a privacy agreement between the two that was formed back in 2011.
For Google, it was recently found that Google's Nest security systems included an undisclosed microphone, which alarmed a lot of consumers and privacy groups.
Advocacy Groups on the March
Several advocacy groups have also pointed out that a fine against Facebook would not be enough for the company to be more careful with its practices such as protection of consumer data. The groups have asked FTC to force spinoffs of services, like Instagram and WhatsApp, back to how they were previously. In addition, groups argue that Facebook is too big to adequately care about user data from all major services. Groups are seeking to have Facebook be treated “like a public utility.”
Lina Khan, writer of semi-viral Yale Law Journal article about Amazon, is currently in talks with Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee (congressional panel) overseeing antitrust issues, according to people familiar with the ongoing plans. She is the product of a school of antitrust thinkers that have called for breaking up Facebook.