Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras today announced that the agency will host hearings this fall to examine the next generation of consumer issues to emerge in the high-tech global marketplace. Speaking to the Anti-Spyware Coalition meeting sponsored by the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, DC, Majoras said the hearings would bring together experts from business, government, the technology sector, consumer advocates, academics, and law enforcement officials to explore the ways in which technology development and convergence and the continued globalization of commerce impact consumer protection issues.
Majoras noted that the Commission held similar hearings in 1995, “to consider the risks presented by rapidly evolving technologies such as the Internet and to formulate policies to address these risks.” More than 70 experts in business, technology, economics, and consumer protection analyzed the consumer protection challenges of the future. Majoras said that while the group demonstrated great foresight, “no one even mentioned spyware or similar intrusive software. Today, however, spyware is fast overtaking spam as consumers’ top online concern.”
Although Majoras said that “ten years is an eternity for technology,” the four principal lessons of the 1995 hearings are still relevant. “First, we must study and evaluate new technologies so that we are as prepared as possible to deal with harmful, collateral developments. Second, we need to bring appropriate law enforcement actions to reaffirm that fundamental principles of FTC law apply in the context of new technologies. Third, we must look to industry to implement self-regulatory regimes and, more importantly, to develop new technologies. Finally, we need to educate consumers so that they can take steps to protect themselves.”
“A decade has passed since the FTC held hearings to identity significant consumer protection issues associated with new technologies,” Majoras said. “It is again time to look ahead and examine the next generation of issues to emerge in our high-tech global marketplace.”
She said the focus of the hearings will be how best to protect consumers in the marketplace that knows no bounds, that is virtual, 24-7, and truly global.
Copies of Majoras’ speech are available by podcast and downloadable video file at www.ftc.gov/techade.
Copies of the speech also are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Claudia Bourne Farrell,
Office of Public Affairs