Law Enforcement Officials Confront Tech Companies’ Power

Top Justice Department officials met with 14 state attorneys general on Tuesday to weigh whether they have the right tools to confront privacy and competition concerns surrounding Facebook, Google and other tech companies that have amassed extraordinary amounts of data about their consumers and advertising markets.

Americans increasingly recognize that tech companies wield tremendous power and deserve greater scrutiny, the law enforcement officials said, and they discussed whether traditional approaches to antitrust issues were still suitable for modern disputes over privacy and the tech business model.

Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, cautioned against comparisons to landmark antitrust cases. “Most would agree, this is not Standard Oil, this is not even Microsoft,” he said. But, he added, “all of those situations inform you.”

The Justice Department called the conversation productive, though no decisions were made or announced. The meeting, largely a forum for officials to share ideas, sharply contrasted with Monday’s chaos at the Justice Department over the confusion of whether Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, would leave the job.

He had told senior White House advisers that he was considering quitting after a New York Times article revealed that he had discussed secretly recording President Trump to expose the chaos inside the administration and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office. Mr. Rosenstein has denied the report.

He attended Tuesday’s meeting, sitting alongside Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the acting associate attorney general, Jesse Panuccio, the department’s No. 3 official. The head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, and the acting head of the civil rights division, John M. Gore, also attended.

Photo: Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press