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Commission issues staff report: The Commission has issued a staff report highlighting the challenges of consumer protection in the face of emerging and evolving technologies in the next ten years. The report summarizes the proceedings of the FTC’s three-day public hearings, “Protecting Consumers in the Next Tech-ade,” and which will inform its consumer protection efforts in the next decade.

The report explains the FTC will work to prevent Internet fraud by using its new powers under the U.S. SAFE WEB Act to coordinate and cooperate more closely with foreign consumer protection officials, ensure that consumer-producers who engage in activities to market and advertise products for consideration do so within the confines of laws prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices in trade, and develop new strategies and to harness the power of technology to deliver timely and effective consumer education messages.

It states that consumers increasingly want to access content, including commercial messages; create and share content and information about themselves; and pay for goods and services how, when, and where they want. The FTC will work to prevent unfair or deceptive acts and practices that adversely affect the ability of consumers to make these types of choices.

It also notes that products in the marketplace are changing constantly and rapidly as a result of obsolescence, convergence, interoperability, digital rights management and a host of other considerations. The FTC will work to prevent consumer harm arising from these changes by monitoring and prosecuting those who engage in unfairness or deception to exploit consumers’ lack of familiarity with new products, and using consumer education programs to edify consumers.

The report states that the FTC will work to protect the privacy and security of consumer information in this new information environment by aggressively enforcing its special statutes related to privacy as well as Section 5 of the FTC Act, by encouraging the development and implementation of self-regulatory standards related to new technologies that raise privacy and security concerns, such as in the area of behavioral marketing, and by engaging in substantial business education efforts to encourage the adoption of reasonable security procedures to decrease the risk of data breaches.

Finally, the report states that technology and business practices will continue to evolve rapidly, creating the potential for benefits and harms to consumers. The FTC will seek to prevent injury to consumers in this dynamic marketplace by continuing to engage in substantial consumer education efforts and by serving as a “convener,” regularly bringing together interested parties to discuss new technologies and their consumer protection implications. For example, a two day public event, “Spam Summit: the Next Generation of Threats and Solutions,” was held July 11-12, 2007, a town hall titled “Ehavioral Advertising: Tracking, Targeting, and Technology” was held November 1-2, 2007, and “Beyond Voice: Mapping the Mobile Marketplace” will be held May 6 and 7.

The Commission vote to approve issuing the report was 5-0.

Copies of the report are available from the FTC’s Web site at and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.

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