Privacy Protection Resources to Increase by 50 Percent; Enforcement to be Enhanced
Saying that "there is no question that consumers are deeply concerned about the privacy of their personal information ... how it's being used ... and who is using it," Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy J. Muris delivered remarks today at the 2001 Privacy Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, outlining the FTC's new Privacy Agenda and announcing that the agency plans to increase resources dedicated to privacy protection by 50 percent.
Muris began his remarks by paying tribute to the men and women lost in the tragic events of September 11. These terrorist attacks, he said, have highlighted consumers' concerns about their security, as well as the fact that one of the "government's most important jobs is to protect its citizens." He said that although issues of national security and defense are outside the purview of the Commission, the agency will do all it can to protect consumer privacy in the commercial realm - both online and off-line.
Muris presented a detailed FTC enforcement plan, developed over the past four months through meetings with agency, consumer, industry, and trade association officials, that will involve "every division of the Bureau of Consumer Protection and increase the resources devoted to privacy issues substantially." Privacy has become "a large and central part of the FTC's consumer protection mission," he said, and the diverse perspectives gained from meetings with agency staff and consumer, industry, and trade association groups has enabled the FTC to "respond to the American people [and] ... reassure consumers that privacy promises will be honored."
As the nation's leading consumer protection agency, the Chairman said, the Commission's new Privacy Agenda will contain the following major law enforcement and education initiatives:
- Creating a National Do-Not-Call List;
- Beefing Up Enforcement Against Deceptive Spam;
- Helping Victims of Identity Theft;
- Putting a Stop to Pretexting;
- Encouraging Accuracy in Credit Reporting and Compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA);
- Enforcing Privacy Promises;
- Increasing Enforcement and Outreach on Children's Online Privacy;
- Tracking Consumers' Privacy Complaints;
- Enforcing the Telemarketing Sales Rule;
- Restricting the Use of Pre-acquired Account Information;
- Enforcing the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB); and
- Holding Privacy-related Commission Workshops.
Regarding possible legislation concerning both Internet and off-line privacy, the Chairman said that while there are "clearly good arguments for such legislation," such as the establishment of a clear set of rules about how personal information is collected and used, "it is too soon to conclude that we can fashion workable legislation to accomplish these goals." Citing the recent GLB privacy notices, he said "we should at least digest this experience" before moving forward.
"We will enforce current laws vigorously, using more of the FTC's resources," the Chairman said in concluding his remarks. "We will stop those practices that harm consumers. We will use our full arsenal of tools ... to pursue our strong pro-privacy agenda addressing real privacy concerns."
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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Mitchell J. Katz
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