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Democrats Push FTC To Take Privacy Protection Action

Capitol Hill
Nine Democratic senators are urging the FTC to use its rulemaking authority on privacy regulations. (Image credit: Architect of the Capitol)

The Federal Trade Commission is being asked to use rulemaking authority to protect privacy, cybersecurity and civil rights.

That tall order comes from Capitol Hill, where federal privacy legislation has proved a hill too high for Democrats and Republicans to help themselves and the country surmount.

Nine Democratic senators are calling on the commission to fight back against what they said is “Big Tech’s unimpeded access and abuse of consumers’ private information, anti-competitive behavior and data breaches, as well as alarm over rising discrimination using personal data that undermine civil rights.”

They argue that privacy has become a consumer crisis and while Congress has failed to come up with a national standard via legislation, lawmakers are calling on the FTC to do what it can in parallel with that ongoing Hill effort to protect consumer privacy using every tool in the regulator’s toolkit.

Also Read: FTC Boosts Big Tech Regulatory Profile

The FTC's tools have generally been to file lawsuits or settle suits over unfair and deceptive practices, but the commissioners do have some rulemaking authority.

The senators want the FTC to launch a rulemaking looking at, among other things, “the banning of exploitative targeting of children and teens and other specific practices, implementing opt-in consent rules on the use of personal data and global opt-out standards.”

The debate over opt-in vs. opt-out data collection regimes has been arguably the biggest sticking point between Republican and Democratic approaches, as well as what qualifies as the sensitive personal information in need of the most protection. But as Big Tech has been more in the sights of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, there could be more common ground on Capitol Hill when it comes to privacy protections.

Signing the letter were Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

The letter comes only days after President Joe Biden nominated privacy advocate Alvaro Bedoya to a seat on the commission. 

Bedoya was the first chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, which oversees Big Tech.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.