Big data companies face increased state and federal scrutiny

Big Data – State attorneys general are ramping up their scrutiny of technology platform companies such as Google and Facebook. In late March, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry disclosed in an interview that the state attorneys general were preparing to meet with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to discuss concerns about technology platforms. On April 4, 2019, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine confirmed that he is “engaged in discussions” with the FTC and the states about Google’s position in the digital ad market. Taking center stage in these discussions is the topic of “Big Data” and whether these online platforms’ ability to collect and use massive amounts of personal data gives them a competitive advantage.

Recent news has underlined the ongoing trend of federal and state enforcers scrutinizing online platforms and technology markets. During the Georgetown Law Global Antitrust Enforcement Symposium on September 25, 2018, the FTC Chairman said that the Commission would pay particularly close attention to mergers of “high-tech platforms and nascent competitors.” In late February the FTC announced it was creating a new task force dedicated to monitoring, investigating and taking enforcement action against anticompetitive conduct in US technology markets, “including markets in which online platforms compete.”

The FTC indicated that the task force team will be staffed by approximately 17 lawyers with experience in “markets for online advertising, social networking, mobile operating systems and apps, and platform businesses.” This announcement followed press reports in February that the FTC is currently negotiating a multibillion-dollar fine against a social media giant to settle the agency’s investigation into its privacy practices.

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