Dems to FTC: Show Us the (Privacy) Money Plan

Leading Democrats on the House Energy & Commerce Committee want to know how the Federal Trade Commission would use the money if it got extra funds to help protect consumer privacy.

That comes in a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons and in the wake of a Feb. 26 Protecting "Consumer Privacy in the Era of Big Data" hearing during which the issue of more funding was discussed.

The FTC has said it could use more funds, and many in Congress think it needs them given the revelations about Facebook and Google and other edge providers, as well as the fact that it is not responsible for both edge and ISP privacy.

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That funding would likely come in a larger privacy bill both sides of the aisle have suggested is needed.

In a letter to the FTC, E&C Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Consumer Protection Subcommittee chair Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) asked how the FCC would "deploy resources" under three scenarios: $50 million more, $75 million more, and $100 million more.

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“A series of recent high-profile privacy incidents [they cited Google, Facebook and Amazon] have caused significant concern to consumers and this Committee,” Pallone and Schakowsky said in a joint statement on the letter. “For every high-profile case, there are many more that do not get attention in the press and therefore may not be prioritized by the FTC. Nevertheless, consumers may face significant harm from these less well-known privacy and data security incidents.”

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They want answers from the FTC on the following questions by April 3:

1. "What resources would the FTC require to dramatically boost its enforcement activity with respect to privacy and data security? How would the FTC deploy new resources if it were to receive an additional $50 million for consumer protection and privacy? How about an additional $75 million? How about an additional $100 million?"

2. "If Congress were to direct the FTC to hire technologists to aid in case development, enforcement, rulemaking and/or policy recommendations, what resources would the FTC need to fulfill its consumer protection mission, and how would the agency deploy those new resources?"

3. If the FTC received notice-and-comment rulemaking authority with respect to privacy and data security, would the FTC require additional resources to develop and update new rules without detracting from the agency’s enforcement activity?" (Currently, the FTC's enforcement power is primarily limited to suing those it alleges have been false and deceptive or anticompetitive, then going to court or settling the matter in a consent decree.)

4. What would the FTC be able to accomplish with 100 new attorneys focused on privacy and data security that it cannot do with current resources?"

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.