Lawmakers investigating the market dominance of Big Tech on Friday asked Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple for a broad range of documents, marking a step forward in Congress' bipartisan probe of the companies.
Letters went out to the four companies from the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee and its subcommittee on antitrust, which has been conducting a sweeping antitrust investigation of the companies and their impact on competition and consumers. The lawmakers are seeking a detailed and broad range of documents related to the companies' sprawling operations, including top executives' internal communications.
The move comes as scrutiny of the big tech companies deepens and widens across the federal government and U.S. states and abroad. The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are conducting competition investigations of the companies, and state attorneys general from both major political parties have opened antitrust investigations of Google and Facebook. The probe of Google has drawn participation by 50 states and territories.
"We have to act if we see that they're breaking the law," Rohit Chopra, one of the FTC commissioners, said Friday in an interview on CNBC. Chopra, a Democrat, wouldn't confirm specifically names of companies that could be under investigation, but he said the agency is consulting closely with the Justice Department and the state attorneys general as their work proceeds.
Also Friday, the European Union's powerful competition chief indicated that she's looking at expanding regulations on personal data, dropping an initial hint about how she plans to use new powers against tech companies. Margrethe Vestager said that while Europeans have control over their own data through the EU's world-leading data privacy rules, they don't address problems stemming from the way companies use other people's data "to draw conclusions about me or to undermine democracy."
The House lawmakers set an Oct. 14 deadline for the companies to provide the documents.
The companies have said they'll cooperate fully with the congressional investigation.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the documents will help the committee understand "whether they are using their market power in ways that have harmed consumers and competition and how Congress should respond."
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who heads the antitrust subcommittee leading the investigation, has said Congress and antitrust regulators wrongly allowed the big tech companies to regulate themselves, enabling them to operate out of control, dominating the internet and choking off online innovation and entrepreneurship. He has suggested legislative changes may be needed, though he has called breaking up the companies a last resort.