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USA: State and federal investigators preparing to bring antitrust lawsuit against Facebook raising data and privacy issues

"State, federal antitrust lawsuits likely to challenge Facebook for buying rivals and weaponizing data", 19 November 2020.

State and federal investigators are preparing to bring antitrust charges against Facebook that will challenge the tech giant’s acquisition of two rivals, Instagram and WhatsApp, alleging that the deals helped create an anti-competitive social networking juggernaut that has left users with few quality alternatives.

The charges form a critical part of what could be a wide-ranging legal salvo, according to three people with knowledge of the matter, ultimately threatening to saddle Facebook with its toughest regulatory challenge in its nearly 17-year history.

As the state and federal probes enter their final phases, investigators have explored how Instagram and WhatsApp changed in the years after Facebook purchased them, according to the three people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a law enforcement proceeding. Government antitrust watchdogs have weighed whether to contend in lawsuits that these transactions have left users with worse services — and fewer privacy protections — than they might have had if the companies had remained independent, the sources said...

Investigators also have eyed the way in which Facebook manages its vast trove of user data, and the policies it has in place that govern when and how third-party app developers and other companies can access it — setting up the potential, the three sources said, for forthcoming state and federal complaints to contend that Facebook weaponized its most valuable assets as a way to stamp out emerging rivals...

Facebook declined comment. The FTC also declined to comment...