Bipartisan senators ask FTC to disclose whether it is investigating Google

Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSanders announces first endorsements in South Carolina Telehealth is calling — will Congress pick up? 2020 Dems call on Mueller to testify about redacted report MORE (D-Minn.) and Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnConservative groups defend tech from GOP crackdown Lawmakers weigh challenges in fighting robocalls Senators show deep skepticism on Space Force proposal MORE (R-Tenn.) in a letter on Monday urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to "take action" against Facebook and Google over possible antitrust and data privacy violations. 

In a statement, Blackburn said she hoped the "bipartisan effort" would "shed light" on the country's largest tech companies.

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Klobuchar and Blackburn in the letter asked the FTC to disclose whether it is investigating Google and to provide details on ongoing investigations into major online platforms.

"We understand that the FTC does not typically comment on nonpublic investigations, but the public discussion surrounding Google and other companies’ conduct have made this a uniquely important national issue," the senators, both prominent tech critics, wrote in the letter.

"Accordingly, we respectfully request that the FTC consider publicly disclosing whether it is conducting an investigation of Google and/or other major online platforms and describe, in general terms, the nature of the conduct under examination in any such investigations," they added.

The FTC, the federal agency overseeing consumer protection and antitrust cases, closed an antitrust probe into Google without a major enforcement action in 2013.

The senators' letter comes a few weeks after Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee, called for the FTC to probe whether Facebook has violated U.S. antitrust laws. 

Klobuchar, a 2020 White House contender, and Blackburn in the letter raised concerns about Facebook's plans to integrate its messaging services — Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

"Some have expressed concern that Facebook’s recently announced plans to integrate its three messaging platforms ... may lead to Facebook sharing user data between its platforms," they wrote.

"As Congress considers legislation to enact stronger safeguards for consumers’ online privacy, we urge the FTC to use its existing authority to protect the privacy and security of consumers’ online data," they wrote.

Both senators sit on the Senate Commerce Committee, which is taking early steps to put together the nation’s first comprehensive consumer privacy law.