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Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission will announce Monday that it's launching a new inquiry into the privacy and data collection practices of major tech firms including Amazon, TikTok owner ByteDance, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook as well as its subsidiary WhatsApp, Axios has learned.

The big picture: The move comes amid broader scrutiny for the industry and appears to be a wide-reaching inquiry into everything major tech companies know about their users and what they do with that data, as well as their broader business plans.

Details: The FTC is asking for a large trove of information and documents from the above platforms, plus Discord, Reddit and Snap.

  • The agency wants much of the usage and engagement data the platforms collect on their users, the metrics they use for measuring such things and short- and long-term business strategies, among many other areas of inquiry.

Background: In launching the study, the FTC is using its authority to do wide-ranging studies for no specific law enforcement purpose.

  • With this study, the commission particularly wants to look into how tech's privacy and data practices affect children and teens, according to a release seen by Axios.
  • Republican Commissioner Christine Wilson had pushed for such a study last fall.

The intrigue: The agency's five commissioners voted 4-1 to issue the orders, with Republican commissioner Noah Phillips dissenting, saying the probe was too expansive.

Between the lines: The FTC uses these types of studies to gather data that can later lead to enforcement actions, should they encounter any wrongdoing.

Go deeper

Tech digs in for long domestic terror fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With domestic extremist networks scrambling to regroup online, experts fear the next attack could come from a radicalized individual — much harder than coordinated mass events for law enforcement and platforms to detect or deter.

The big picture: Companies like Facebook and Twitter stepped up enforcement and their conversations with law enforcement ahead of Inauguration Day. But they'll be tested as the threat rises that impatient lone-wolf attackers will lash out.

Jan 25, 2021 - Technology

Facebook says it will give researchers access to political ad data

Facebook on Monday said it’s giving outside researchers more information about how and why political ads get shown to certain users.

Why it matters: Researchers have long complained that Facebook has been slow to grant experts access to information about ways its platform is used.

Jan 25, 2021 - Technology

Google says it may have found a privacy-friendly substitute to cookies

Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

Google on Monday said new test results show promising signs that the technology it's hoping will replace cookie-based ad targeting is working.

Why it matters: Google and web browser rivals Apple and Mozilla have all introduced sweeping privacy changes recently that will collectively phase out cookies, an internet tracking tool that tracks users' web browsing history.