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US: FTC, State AGs to team up to investigate Google, Facebook

 |  March 31, 2019

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is gearing up to hold talks with state attorneys general about Facebook and Google’s position in the technology space.

According to a report in Bloomberg citing Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, the meeting had been slated for this week but will be rescheduled.  It’s common for states to work with federal agencies including the FTC and Justice Department when looking into potential misdeeds. By teaming up, states can share the resources and information. “What we have here is different layers of problems all surrounding big tech as a whole,” Landry told Bloomberg TV. “These are issues that attorneys general around the country on both sides of the aisle have been discussing for quite some time now.” At Google, he pointed to its role in online ads as an antitrust and consumer protection concern. “Would the FTC allow Chase or Goldman-Sachs to own the Nasdaq?” Landry said. “The answer to that would be absolutely not.”

Attorneys general have teamed up to investigate if Google ran afoul of any antitrust or consumer protection laws, while the FTC is looking into the Cambridge Analytica issue at Facebook. The now-defunct political consulting company accessed data on 87 million Facebook users in the run up to the 2016 US Presidential election without users’ permission.

The coordination between states and the FTC follows on news this week that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is suing Facebook over running real estate ads that discriminated against users. The government agency is seeking damages for anyone who was hurt by the advertising policies of the social media giant. Facebook recently overhauled its policies, but previously employers and landlords were able to choose audiences for ads based on race, gender, and ethnicity. A similar lawsuit against Facebook from the ACLU was settled last week and resulted in Facebook changing its policies. Facebook was surprised and “disappointed” by the action but said it will cooperate with HUD.

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