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US Attorneys General Discuss Social Media Privacy Concerns

FILE - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Sacramento, Sept. 5, 2017. Becerra says a meeting about social media in Washington on Sept. 25, 2018, that included the U.S. attorney general and a number of his fellow state attorneys general focused on consumer protection and data privacy issues.

A meeting between top state law enforcement officials and Attorney General Jeff Sessions about how the government can safeguard the privacy of social media users ended Tuesday without a decision on whether to investigate.

The gathering at the Justice Department was scheduled to discuss whether tech giants are "stifling the free exchange of ideas'' and examine whether they "may be hurting competition.''

But California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, says the one-hour meeting mainly focused on consumer protection and data privacy issues.

Attorneys general from Alabama, California, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Utah and Washington, D.C., attended. Five other states sent senior deputies.

Justice Department officials said the meeting "centered on ways the Department and state governments can most effectively safeguard consumers using online digital platforms.''

Although there wasn't an immediate decision on whether to open an investigation, the attorneys general discussed the nuances and interpretation of privacy and what might constitute a monopoly in the tech sector, Becerra said.

"The conversation really zeroed in on privacy,'' he said after the meeting. "I think everyone sees the growth of the industry as something that has become of interest to regulators and enforcers. How it might apply, that is still the open question.''

The Justice Department said it would review the "insight'' shared by the attorneys general and expected conversations on the topic to continue.