Tech develops quickly, which can make it difficult to regulate, but changes are coming. Earlier today, the Federal Trade Commission announced the launch of its new Technology Task Force tackling big tech monopolies.
“The role of technology in the economy and in our lives grows more important every day,” FTC Chairman Joe Simmons said, “As I’ve noted in the past, it makes sense for us to closely examine technology markets to ensure consumers benefit from free and fair competition.”
The FTC’s Bureau of Competition will use existing staff members to create the task force with a “focus on technology-related sectors of the economy, including markets in which online platforms complete.” In addition, the task force will have 17 staff attorneys looking into anti-competitive behavior.
Through its task force, the FTC plans to monitor competition in U.S. technology markets, including “investigating any potential anticompetitive conduct”, and it will take “enforcement actions when warranted”.
As noted by TechCrunch, this task force probably isn’t going to deal with “shady user data practices” or similar concerns falling under consumer protection. Because it’s housed under the Bureau of Competition, that’s going to be the task force’s focus.
“Technology markets, which are rapidly evolving and touch so many other sectors of the economy, raise distinct challenges for antitrust enforcement,” said the bureau’s director, Bruce Hoffman, who will oversee the task force. “By centralizing our expertise and attention, the new task force will be able to focus on these markets exclusively — ensuring they are operating pursuant to the antitrust laws, and taking action where they are not.”
Antitrust laws make sure people are protected from monopolies or any predatory businesses. So, one potential thing the task force can look into is mergers.
Recently, for example, advocacy groups asked the FTC to turn Facebook’s other platforms — Instagram and WhatsApp — back into their own entities, citing data concerns.
The Verge reported Hoffman confirmed the task force would look into mergers, but didn’t name any specific investigations.
Even without knowing specifics, this is a clear sign that the FTC’s going to devote more time and resources to watching big tech.