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E&C Leaders Want to Know How FTC Could Boost Privacy & Data Security Enforcement If It Received More Funding

Mar 20, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) wrote to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today asking how it would use additional resources to protect consumer privacy and increase data security enforcement activity.  The Committee leaders asked how the FTC would deploy resources under three different scenarios – if it received an additional $50, $75 or $100 million for consumer protection and privacy.   

The letter comes after the Subcommittee recently held its first privacy hearing this Congress, entitled “Protecting Consumer Privacy in the Era of Big Data.”  The members of the Subcommittee believe legislation is necessary to protect Americans’ privacy and that the FTC must have additional resources and authority to adequately meet growing challenges in this area.

“We are writing today to better understand the resources that FTC needs to fulfill its important consumer protection mission and meet the challenges posed by rapid changes in technology,” Pallone and Schakowsky wrote. 

In the past year alone, consumers have seen privacy scandals from some of the country’s largest technology companies, including the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, the Google+ bugs that allowed third-party app developers access to millions of users’ personal information and an Amazon Alexa that shared a recording of a couple’s conversation without permission.  Additionally, massive data breaches at companies such as Equifax and Marriott exposed the sensitive personal information of hundreds of millions of consumers.

“A series of recent high-profile privacy incidents have caused significant concern to consumers and this Committee,” Pallone and Schakowsky continued.  “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.” 

Pallone and Schakowsky requested responses from the FTC to a series of questions by April 3, 2019, including:

  • 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? 
  • 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? 
  • 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? 
  • 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?

Full text of the letter can be found HERE.