Biden seeks harder line on Big Tech in new order, says FTC should curb collection of sensitive data

President Biden will ask the Federal Trade Commission on Friday to take a harder line on Big Tech companies by scrutinizing how dominant internet players block out competition through “killer acquisitions” of other platforms and drafting rules that curb how much sensitive information they can collect.

The moves are part of a sprawling order designed to promote competition in the economy by limiting or banning “non-compete” clauses, promoting the importation of drugs from Canada and other moves.

The White House is trumpeting the order by comparing it to Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting efforts in the early 1900s and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “supercharged” anti-trust enforcement decades later.

The moves against Big Tech reflect modern concerns and seem aimed at companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

Rules on acquisitions come amid a swirling debate about Facebook’s influence after mega-acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp years ago. Social media companies have come under fire from the political right, too, though mainly over concerns about censorship or rules that kick people off the platforms.

Mr. Biden’s order appears to target Amazon by ordering the FTC to scrutinize large retail platforms that can monitor how small businesses’ products sell and then use that data to launch their competing versions.

“Because they run the platform, they can also display their own copycat products more prominently than the small businesses’ products,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

The order also takes cellphone manufacturers to task, instructing the FTC to write rules that allow users to do their own repairs or get third-party shops to fix their phones so companies cannot corner the market with costly and time-consuming repairs, parts and diagnostics.

Mr. Biden will sign the order in the White House State Dining Room on Friday and offer remarks.

Among notable provisions, the order encourages the FTC to ban or limit non-compete clauses that bar employees from seeking a better gig at a competing company. Mr. Biden says the clauses impact 36 million to 60 million workers and thwart employees from seeking better wages or conditions elsewhere, though companies say the clauses are an important tool in protecting proprietary information from rivals.

Mr. Biden will also ask the FTC to ban unnecessary occupational licensing requirements. The White House says almost 30% of jobs in the United States require a license, up from less than 5% in the 1950s, and it is too hard to transfer licenses from state to state.


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