FTC to Explore Competition and Consumer Protection Issues at Hearings this Week

The FTC is holding a hearing this week to examine the regulation of consumer data, the consumer welfare standard in antitrust law, and vertical mergers. This is the first in a series of hearings on "Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century" that will examine how changes in the economy affect the FTC's enforcement priorities. EPIC and a coalition of consumer groups submitted extensive comments for the hearings. EPIC and the groups said that privacy protection is critical for competition and innovation. EPIC and the groups told the FTC that it should: 1) unwind the Facebook-WhatsApp deal; 2) require Facebook and Google to spin off their advertising units; 3) block future acquisitions by Facebook and Google that would extend monopoly control over consumer data; 4) impose privacy safeguards for all mergers that implicate data privacy; and 5) perform audits of algorithmic tools to promote accountability and to limit anticompetitive conduct. The FTC reopened the investigation of Facebook in March after EPIC and consumer groups filed a formal complaint, but has still taken no action. The UK Information Commissioner completed its initial investigation, published a report, and issued a substantial fine in July.

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