Nine Democratic senators, led by Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) and Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii), have urged the Federal Trade Commission to develop rules on the collection and use of personal data in the digital economy, including rules to promote civil rights with respect to data use, “in parallel to congressional efforts to create federal privacy laws to give power back to consumers.”
“Continuous high-profile and costly privacy violations and data breaches have shown the limits of the FTC’s general prohibition on unfair and deceptive practices. Big Tech companies have routinely broken their promises to consumers and neglected their legal obligations, only to receive wrist-slap punishments after long delay, providing little relief to consumers, and with minimal deterrent effect,” the lawmakers said in a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan dated today.
Without adequate protections, “Big Tech companies have used their unchecked access to private personal information to create in-depth profiles about nearly all Americans and to protect their market position against competition from startups. Consumers have been forced to accept continuous data breaches and security lapses that compromise their intimate personal records. Americans’ identities have become the currency in an unregulated, hidden economy of data brokers that buy and sell sensitive information about their families, religious beliefs, healthcare needs, and every movement to shadowy interests, often without their awareness and consent. Meanwhile, communities of color have faced setbacks in the fight to protect their civil rights as new forms of discrimination have proliferated on social media platforms. This sustained failure has fostered a market that punishes companies for protecting and respecting users, rather than rewarding pro-consumer practices,” the senators elaborated.
Specifically, they asked that the FTC “undertake a rulemaking process with the goal of protecting consumer data; the rulemaking should consider strong protections for the data of members of marginalized communities, prohibitions on certain practices (such as the exploitative targeting of children and teens), opt-in consent rules on use of personal data, and global opt-out standards. Under the FTC Act, the Commission is able to promulgate rules to define and prevent business practices that violate our consumer protection law’s prohibition on unfair or deceptive acts or practices. FTC Commissioners [Rohit] Chopra, [Rebecca Kelly] Slaughter, and [Christine] Wilson, and former FTC Chairs have all provided compelling arguments that unfair and deceptive practices are prevalent in the digital economy and that the market has failed consumers. These arguments are bolstered by the FTC’s enforcement record, numerous staff reports, and revealing market investigations. This record provides a powerful and compelling basis for urgent action.”
In addition to providing more immediate protections for consumers, “[a]n FTC rulemaking initiative would contribute to congressional efforts to develop federal privacy legislation through the research, public comment record, and dialogue required under the Commission’s rulemaking procedure under the Mag[nuson]-Moss process,” the senators said.
Joining Sens. Blumenthal and Schatz on the letter were Sens. 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.). —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
MainStory: FederalNews Congress FTC Privacy
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