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Republican FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson wants her agency to probe how social media companies use consumers’ information to shape the algorithms that determine what their users see and read.

Why it matters: A wide-ranging study of social media data practices could lay the groundwork for more enforcement from the agency, as well as legislative recommendations to Congress.

Driving the news: Wilson said she supports studying how tech companies use children’s data, and then pushed for a broader review of data practices during an interview I conducted for C-SPAN’S "The Communicators."

  • The FTC can order companies to answer questions about business practices for wide-ranging studies that don’t have a specific law enforcement goal, under what's known as 6(b) authority.
  • As the FTC considers updates to its children's online privacy rules, advocates have pushed the agency to conduct such a study on children’s data. Wilson said she thinks the commission should do that, and more.
  • “ I think more generally the social media companies that we interact with essentially every day raise significant and important questions that I think the FTC needs to delve deeper into,” Wilson said. “So, for example, how information is collected and shared and monetized, and how that feeds into algorithms and how that affects the content curation of the algorithms and the promotion of certain content. I think the more we know in this area, the better.”

Don’t forget: The FTC already is conducting a study on broadband providers’ privacy practices, seeking information from Comcast, Google Fiber, T-Mobile, Charter, and AT&T and Verizon advertising subsidiaries.

  • That effort, announced in March, is focused on the categories of personal information collected about consumers or their devices, whether customers have a choice in what’s collected, and the processes to change or delete the information.
  • Wilson cautioned there could be constraints on the agency’s ability to conduct the studies. The FTC has to seek additional clearance if it wants information from 10 or more companies through a study.

The big picture: The FTC has already penalized Facebook with a $5 billion fine for privacy violations. Although critics said it wasn't enough to change the company's behavior, it was an unprecedentedly huge settlement.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

How the tech stock selloff is hurting average Americans

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Investors holding the ultra-popular Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 index funds have been hard hit over the last two weeks as tech shares have been roiled by rising U.S. Treasury yields.

Why it matters: Even though the economy is growing and many U.S. stocks are performing well, most investors are seeing their wealth decline because major indexes no longer reflect the overall economy or even a broad swath of public companies — they reflect the performance of a few of the country's biggest companies.

2 hours ago - World

UN rights chief: At least 54 killed, 1,700 detained since Myanmar coup

A Feb. 7 protest in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images

Police and military officers in Myanmar have killed at least 54 people during anti-coup protests, while "arbitrarily" detaining over 1,700 people, United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said Thursday.

Why it matters: Protesters have demonstrating across Myanmar for nearly a month, demanding the restoration of democracy after the country's military leaders overthrew its democratically elected government on Feb. 1.

3 hours ago - Health

The danger of a fourth wave

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Anomalous Arkansas case data from Feb. 28 was not included in the calculated change; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. may be on the verge of another surge in coronavirus cases, despite weeks of good news.

The big picture: Nationwide, progress against the virus has stalled. And some states are ditching their most important public safety measures even as their outbreaks are getting worse.