Biden will sign an executive order cracking down on Big Tech firms buying up smaller companies and hoarding user data

President Biden
President Biden speaks to reporters on July 8 Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • Joe Biden will sign a sweeping executive order on Friday, which includes a crackdown on Big Tech.
  • Biden’s order will tell agencies to scrutinize Big Tech mergers more closely.
  • It will also tell the FTC to draw up rules for how tech companies can gather and use consumer data.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden will on Friday sign an executive order cracking down on the power of Big Tech firms, as first reported by The New York Times.

The fact-sheet for the wide-ranging executive order focusing on “promoting competition in the American economy” was posted by the White House Friday morning. Technology makes up just one part of the order, which also targets sectors like the job market, healthcare, and transportation – but it takes specific aim at Big Tech platforms.

The order will, first, tell federal agencies to scrutinize mergers involving Big Tech firms more closely, especially when these firms try to buy smaller companies that could one day become their competitors.

Second, the order says Big Tech platforms are “gathering too much personal information,” and will instruct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to draw up rules and limitations on how Big Tech companies can hoover up consumer data.

The order also says Big Tech companies can use their troves of data to give themselves an advantage over smaller businesses, and asks the FTC to draw up rules “barring unfair methods of competition on internet marketplaces.”

On top of the orders specifically targeting Big Tech companies, Biden will also reportedly ask the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create new rules for broadband internet providers, and encourage the FCC to readopt net neutrality rules.

Big Tech companies including Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google are already under intense antitrust scrutiny in Washington.

In June, Congress introduced a series of bills directed at these four companies, and Biden appointed renowned Big Tech critic Lina Khan as head of the FTC, a move that prompted Amazon to ask that Khan be removed from any enforcement decisions involving the company.

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Facebook faces lawsuits for its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014 respectively. In December 2020, the FTC and 46 states filed two lawsuits seeking to break off Instagram and WhatsApp from Facebook. The lawsuits allege Facebook acquired the companies to stifle competition.

Facebook responded that the lawsuit was an attempt to revise history, and that the acquisitions had been cleared by agencies at the time. “We have operated and continue to operate in a highly competitive space. Our acquisitions have been good for competition, good for advertisers and good for people,” it said in a statement at the time.

Amazon has also been the target of criticism from lawmakers, who claim that it can use consumer data to get a competitive advantage over third-party sellers on its platform. Biden’s executive order specifically cites an October 2020 House Judiciary Committee report which alleged that Amazon used data from third-party sellers to develop its own competing products. Amazon has repeatedly denied this claim.

Google was hit with an antitrust suit from 36 attorneys general on Thursday over its control of the Android Play Store – six months after attorneys general filed a lawsuit claiming it abused its dominance in online ad sales. Google called the latest suit “meritless”, saying it was not about “helping the little guy.”

Apple is not the subject of any lawsuits from lawmakers, but pushed back against two of the five bills introduced by Congress in June, claiming they would damage the security of iPhones and, by extension, users’ privacy.

The New York Times reported CEO Tim Cook personally rang House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lobby against the bills.