February 26, 2019 / 8:47 PM / 3 months ago

U.S. consumer regulator forms task force to keep an eye on big tech

WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - The Federal Trade Commission, under pressure to keep closer tabs on big tech companies like Alphabet’s Google and Facebook, said on Tuesday it would create a task force to monitor the sector and investigate anticompetitive conduct.

The FTC’s Bureau of Competition will put some 17 staff attorneys on the task force, which will consult on tech-related merger reviews, investigations and reviews of consummated tech deals.

The agency’s Bruce Hoffman, head of the Bureau of Competition, did not rule out taking action to undo a consummated deal if anticompetitive behavior was found, but declined to discuss specific transactions.

Unwinding a deal after it has closed is “very rare,” said Henry Su of the law firm Constantine Cannon LLP.

One tech company already under investigation by the FTC is Facebook, which is accused of violating a 2011 consent decree regarding privacy by allowing the personal information of 87 million users to end up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a Britain-based political consulting firm hired by U.S. Donald Trump’s 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Several advocacy groups, like the Electronic Privacy Information Center, have urged the FTC to require Facebook to unwind its purchases of Instagram, used to share photos, and WhatsApp, a private messaging app. (Reporting by Diane Bartz Editing by Susan Thomas)

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