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Pallone Asks GAO to Examine Consumers’ Control Over Personal Information Online

Feb 27, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking the agency to review the harms to consumers of eliminating rules that protect consumers’ privacy.

Under current law, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the authority to adopt rules to regulate the privacy and security practices of internet service providers, and it adopted rules in October 2016.  On Friday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that he is seeking a stay on some of the FCC's broadband privacy and data security protections.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates internet websites and can bring enforcement actions against websites whose privacy and security practices are unfair or deceptive, but it is virtually impossible for the agency to adopt privacy rules.

“With the near universal use of the internet, and the rapid expansion of connected devices, corporations now have more information about American consumers than ever before,” Pallone wrote.  “Given the fluctuating state of the law and underlying threats to individuals’ privacy and security online, I request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examine several topics related to privacy and security regulation.”

Pallone is requesting GAO review the following:

  • What online consumer information do companies collect and how is that data is shared, stored, and used?
  • How do companies that store online consumer information notify those consumers about data breaches?
  • Do consumers have meaningful control over their information and the security of that information online?
  • What challenges do consumers face in controlling their information online and how do the government and the private sector help consumers face these challenges?
  • How, if at all, do the approaches of the FCC, FTC, and other federals agencies differ, and which approaches provide the greatest protections for consumers’ privacy and security online?

A copy of the letter is available here.