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The Federal Trade Commission today testified about FTC efforts to protect consumer privacy and commented on legislative proposals to improve privacy protections before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The testimony presented by David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, described the FTC’s law enforcement actions to hold companies accountable for protecting consumer privacy, focusing on data security, identity theft, children’s privacy, and protecting consumers from intrusive spam, spyware, and telemarketing. The testimony noted that the FTC has brought 28 actions charging businesses with failing to protect consumers’ personal information and 15 actions charging website operators with collecting information from children without parents’ consent. The FTC also has brought 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. Finally, the FTC has 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 testimony also described the FTC’s consumer and business education efforts, cross-border privacy and international enforcement work, and research and policymaking on emerging technology issues, including privacy roundtables held in 2009-10. In addition, the testimony discussed legislative proposals from Subcommittee Chairmen Bobby L. Rush and Rick Boucher. The testimony supported the proposals’ provisions giving the FTC rulemaking authority under the Administrative Procedures Act. It also stated that if privacy legislation is enacted, Congress should consider requiring simplified disclosures to help consumers make timely choices and compare privacy protections offered by different companies.

The testimony 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.

(House Privacy Testimony)

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