By Alyssa Newcomb
February 26, 2019

On the same day the AT&T and Time Warner merger received a federal appeals court’s blessing, the Federal Trade Commission announced the launch of a new technology task force that will keep watch on big tech, including the review of past and future mergers.

“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.”

The task force, which will include 17 staff attorneys, will be charged with scrutinizing technology industry practices, and will consult with the larger FTC staff on issues including the review of past and potential technology mergers. The team will also have one technical fellow, who will provide expertise on various investigations, according to the FTC release.

The creation of the task force comes amid mounting pressure from lawmakers and advocates for regulators to rein in large technology companies, with Facebook and Google at the top of the list.

Last month, nine advocacy groups sent a letter to the FTC asking regulators to treat Facebook “like a public utility,” and to slap the company with a fine for violating a previous 2011 agreement it made with regulators over user consent. The groups even suggested that the FTC could break up Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

The most extreme move would “restore competition and innovation for Internet messaging and photo app services, two important goals for the future of the Internet economy,” according to the letter.

After users found out about a previously undisclosed microphone in Google’s Nest security systems, another privacy group with a history of complaining about the acquisition, sent a letter to regulators calling on Google to divest itself of the smart home company.

 

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