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FTC Requests Data from Big Tech Companies: ‘Too much about this industry remains dangerously opaque’

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered nine social media and internet companies on Monday to provide data about how they track Americans’ online activities and how they use that data.

Included in the nine companies are Amazon.com, Facebook, WhatsApp, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, Discord Inc. and TikTok owner ByteDance, according to the Wall Street Journal. The order was approved by a 4-1 majority.

“We’re working, as we always do, to ensure the FTC has all the information it needs to understand how Twitter operates its services,” a Twitter spokesperson told the Journal.

The companies have been given 45 days to comply. Legally, the FTC has authority to request the information and enforce policies against unfair business activities but ordering the companies to turn over the data cannot be enforced by law and will not result in any immediate consequence if the companies do not oblige.

In a joint statement, FTC Commissioners Rohit Chopra, Rebecca Slaughter and Christine Wilson said that the business models of the companies have shifted over time “from supporting users’ activities to monetizing them.”

“Never before has there been an industry capable of surveilling and monetizing so much of our personal lives. Social media and video streaming companies now follow users everywhere through apps on their always-present mobile devices. This constant access allows these firms to monitor where users go, the people with whom they interact, and what they are doing,” the statement said.

“But to what end?” they continued. “Too much about this industry remains dangerously opaque.”

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Biden frees Venezuelan President Maduro’s drug dealing relatives in prisoner swap

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President Biden freed two of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s relatives Saturday in exchange for seven jailed Americans. The two nephews of Maduro’s wife Cilia Flores, had been convicted in the United States for drug dealing and sentenced to 18 years in prison, according to the BBC.

According to the report, the swap was in exchange for five American oil executives. Those Americans were “exchanged for two of Mr Maduro’s wife’s nephews, who were serving 18-year sentences in the US on drug charges,” the officials told the BBC. Maduro’s nephews were convicted under the Trump administration and the Venezuelan government claims that they were “unjustly” jailed in the United States.

In a statement from the White House Saturday, Biden said the American’s were  “wrongfully detained.”  He said the American’s  would soon be reunited with their relatives, according to reports.

“Today, we celebrate that seven families will be whole once more. To all the families who are still suffering and separated from their loved ones who are wrongfully detained – know that we remain dedicated to securing their release,” the Biden statement added.

Meanwhile, 13 Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, requesting more information on “the intelligence report” that alleges Maduro is emptying his prisons and allowing them to head to the United States in the caravans that crossing the porous border.

The letter states that the report warns Border Patrol agents to be on the look-out for “violent criminals from Venezuela among the migrant caravans heading towards the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“It has been widely reported that the Venezuelan regime, under the control of Nicolás Maduro Moros, is deliberately releasing violent prisoners early, including inmates convicted of ‘murder, rape, and extortion,’ and pushing them to join caravans heading to the United States,” the letter states.

You can follow Sara A. Carter on Twitter @SaraCarterDC.

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