Annual Highlights 2011-2012

Trending in Technology

Nearly 100 years of experience gives the FTC a unique perspective when it comes to anticipating and evaluating new technology, and using appropriate measures of enforcement, education, and public engagement to address evolving markets and business models.

It has been widely reported that the FTC has ongoing investigations into potentially anticompetitive conduct by dominant firms in certain high-profile, high-tech industries. The Commission takes a balanced approach when applying antitrust principles to fast-paced technology markets, focusing on the facts as they develop in real time to assess what competition is likely to look like in the future.

The FTC charged the developer of peer-to-peer file-sharing software with marketing an application that was likely to cause consumers to unwittingly expose sensitive personal information stored on their mobile devices. The resulting settlement requires the company to provide free upgrades to correct the unintended sharing. Following a recent surf, staff sent warning letters to marketers of six mobile apps that provide background screening reports, alerting them that theFair Credit Reporting Act applies in full force to FCRA-protected information shared on mobile apps.

The FTC convened a public workshop to discuss how firms negotiate rights to intellectual property when participating in standard-setting organizations. The nation’s leading technology companies discussed how to avoid patent “hold-up” — a patent holder’s demand for higher royalties or burdensome licensing terms after the standard is implemented, which can subvert the competitive process and lead to higher prices for consumers. Another workshop explored the privacy and security implications of facial recognition technology, which is being used in a variety of contexts from online social networks to digital signs to mobile apps.

Technological advances have made it difficult for consumers and law enforcement to identify the location of fraudsters pitching scams on the telephone. Some companies remain virtually anonymous by faking the phone number on a caller ID display. At the same time, technology has made it cheap and efficient to make large numbers of illegal pre-recorded calls, often from overseas. The FTC has taken aggressive action against some of the biggest players in the robo-call business, including permanently stopping the defendants in Voice Marketing, Inc., and VoiceBlaze, who paid civil penalties after allegedly providing services enabling marketers to deliver tens of millions of robocalls for pennies a call.

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