The Federal Trade Commission today told Congress that protecting consumers’ privacy – through law enforcement, education and policy initiatives – is a top priority at the agency.
In delivering Commission testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittees on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, and Communications and Technology, Commissioner Edith Ramirez said, “Privacy has been an important part of the Commission’s consumer protection mission for 40 years. During this time, the Commission’s goal in the privacy arena has remained constant: to protect consumers’ personal information and ensure that they have the confidence to take advantage of the many benefits offered by the dynamic and ever-changing marketplace.”
The testimony notes that since 2001, the FTC’s law enforcement initiatives have resulted in more than 300 privacy-related actions, including 34 cases challenging the practices of companies that failed to adequately protect consumers’ personal information; more than 100 spam and spyware cases; and 16 cases for violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. It also has brought 64 cases against companies for improperly calling consumers on the Do Not Call registry; and 86 cases against companies violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
In addition to law enforcement, the agency has distributed millions of copies of educational materials to consumers and businesses about privacy and security issues. As recently as last month, the FTC issued a new consumer education guide, “Understanding Mobile Apps: Questions and Answers.” “The FTC issued the guide to help consumers better understand the privacy and security implications of using mobile apps before downloading them,” the testimony states.
The testimony also describes the FTC’s role in shaping policy for consumer privacy, including the issuance of a staff preliminary privacy report late last year and a call for industry to develop tools to allow consumers to control how their activities are tracked when they surf the Internet.
“The Commission is committed to protecting consumers’ privacy and security – both online and offline. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress on these critical issues,” the testimony states.
The Commission vote to issue the testimony was 5-0, with Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch issuing a separate statement explaining his reservations about some of the proposals advanced in the staff’s preliminary privacy report, including the concept of Do Not Track.
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