FTC's Phillips: Hill Should Not Rush National Privacy Bill

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Republican Federal Trade commissioner Noah Phillips said the government should not rush into national privacy legislation.

That came in an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series.

Phillips has repeatedly said to Congress, privacy means different things to different people. For some he said it meant control of their data, for other it was the security of that data. 

He said that before Congress legislates, he wants it to identify the problems it is trying to solve. "When you say we need privacy, why do we need it," he said, before focusing on the questions around remedies, like: "Should we preempt state laws; "should we have a private right of action [so consumers can file civil suits for violations]"; what about penalties."

Related: Senate Commerce to Revisit National Privacy Legislation

He said Congress needs to get that right, but what he sees currently in the legislative process is that they are fighting about those things. He said it should focus more on what it wants the regime to be: "What do we want to be permitted; what do we want to not be permitted; what do we want subject to a consent requirement and do we want that to be opt in our opt out. There are a lot of thorny questions."

Phillips said of Congress that taking its time is important, "rushing it less so."

The commissioner will likely get his wish about no rush to legislation, but in the near term because an election is intervening, as well as the political divide that continues over issues like opt in and opt out and preemption.

Asked about net neutrality--the FCC returned internet service provider privacy oversight to the FTC with its reclassification of ISPs as information service providers--Phillips said the FTC is currently doing a market research study of internet privacy practices for ISPs but that net neutrality remains fundamentally an FCC issue.

The Communicators interview with Phillips airs on C-SPAN Saturday, Sept. 19, at 6:30 p.m. ET and on C-SPAN2 Monday, Sept. 21, at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET.

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.