The Federal Trade Commission may target Google and Facebook’s data, and the algorithms they rely on, as part of a larger antitrust crackdown.
Big Tech has been under increased scrutiny around the world, with regulators in the US and EU poised to take aggressive action to tackle antitrust issues. Google and Facebook, in particular, are facing some of the most intense scrutiny, and are already fending off lawsuits.
The FTC may have one of the most novel solutions, and the one that should terrify Google and Facebook the most. FTC Chief Technologist Erie Meyer said companies that abuse privacy and collect user data illegally could be forced to pay fines, disclose data and turn over “algorithms that were juiced by ill-gotten data,” reports the Washington Examiner.
The latter penalty should be especially concerning to both companies, as well as any other data-driven platforms. The algorithms companies use are often some of their most well-guarded secrets. When the US was trying to pressure ByteDance to sell TikTok, one of the issues that torpedoed a sale was China classifying algorithms — such as the one TikTok uses to drive engagement — as sensitive information that could not be exported. Indeed, much of TikTok’s success is believed to be the result of the algorithm it uses.
If losing algorithms is on the table as a possible penalty, it may well be the single biggest motivation for Big Tech to straighten up and get its act together.