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The Federal Trade Commission is looking for information from Twitter, Facebook, and other social media or video streaming companies about personal user data. The US agency announced on Monday that it sent out orders for information. 

The orders requesting data were sent to Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Bytedance’s TikTok, Reddit, Snap, Discord, Amazon, and YouTube.

The FTC wants to learn how the companies collect user data, decide which ads to show and how the algorithms are used, among other information. The agency wants to know how these practices affect children and teenagers.

Mass surveillance concerns

The companies have 45 days to respond to the orders. This time is used to generate policy or give recommendations about legislation. In a joint statement, two Democratic members of the commission and one republican noted their push for the order to be sent out.

Democrats Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Slaughter, and Republican Christine Wilson say that never before has there been a segment of the industry with the surveillance capabilities the big social media platforms have.

They now follow us everywhere using apps on always-present phones. They know where you go, who you talk to or come in contact with, and what you are doing, all the time.

Stating their intentions

It is concerning that with such robust networks and surveillance tools, the industry possessing them conducts business concerning user data with near-total secrecy.

Discord says that it looks forward to answering the FTC’s questions. A spokesperson for the company said it does not make money from ads, sell user data to advertisers, or share private user information with anyone.

None of the other companies have responded to requests for comment. In Europe, digital laws are changing with the largest digital platforms brought under the microscope.