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FTC will examine tech platforms as part of competition review

FTC chairman Joe Simons in a suit
FTC Chairman Joe Simons. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission will examine the questions surrounding powerful tech platforms like Google and Facebook as part of a review of consumer and competition policy issues beginning later this year.

Why it matters: Hearings into these issues, announced by FTC Chairman Joe Simons on Wednesday, could help frame the agency’s actions with regards to tech going forward.

What he’s saying: Simons indicated his examination of tech platforms would be broad and a major part of the review. “It’s the network effects,” he told reporters on Wednesday. "It’s the fact that they’re two-sided platforms. It’s the interaction between privacy and competition. And it’s all new, so it makes it very appropriate to have this be the subject of hearings and for us to get input on that."

The details: The public hearings will focus on a wide range of topics, including the implications for competition of big data and the “consumer welfare implications associated with the use of algorithmic decision tools, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics," the agency said.

  • Their focus will go beyond tech, including the overall state of the FTC's portfolio since a similar set of hearings in 1995.
  • The public will be able to submit comments to the agency throughout the process, which will start later this year and stretch into early 2019.