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The Federal Trade Commission today testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation about FTC efforts to protect consumer privacy.

The testimony, presented by FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, described the FTC’s aggressive consumer privacy enforcement program, focusing on data security, identity theft, children’s privacy, and protecting consumers from intrusive spam, spyware, and telemarketing. The testimony noted that since 2001 the FTC has brought dozens of actions charging businesses with failing to protect consumers’ personal information, including a complaint announced today against Rite Aid Corporation, which has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it failed to protect the sensitive financial and medical information of its customers and employees.

As stated in the testimony, the FTC brought 15 actions charging website operators with collecting information from children without parents’ consent, as well as 15 spyware cases and dozens of actions challenging illegal spam, including an action against a rogue Internet Service Provider that resulted in a temporary 30 percent drop in spam worldwide. In addition, the FTC brought 64 actions alleging violations of the Do Not Call Rule, resulting in violators paying almost $40 million in civil penalties and giving up nearly $18 million, including consumer redress. The Do Not Call Registry has long been one of the most successful and popular consumer privacy initiatives. This month, the registry reached the 200 million mark in registered numbers.

The testimony also described the FTC’s recent initiative to take a fresh look at consumer privacy protection in light of new technologies and business models. The testimony noted that the FTC’s reassessment of privacy, through a series of roundtables, highlighted issues in three areas – integrating privacy into everyday business practices, simplifying consumer choices about commercial data practices, and increasing transparency of those practices. The Commission plans to release a report on this initiative later this year.

Leibowitz stated that the FTC looks forward to working with Congress to improve consumer privacy.

The Commission vote to approve the testimony was 5-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

(Senate Privacy Testimony)

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