FTC Testifies on Proposed Reforms to Electronic Communications Privacy Act Before Senate Judiciary Committee

Commission Addresses Need to Modernize ECPA While Preserving FTC’s Civil Investigative Abilities

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In testimony before Congress today, the Federal Trade Commission provided feedback on proposed reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Testifying on behalf of the Commission, Daniel Salsburg, chief counsel in the Commission’s Office of Technology Research and Investigations, highlighted the Commission’s support for the effort to reform the ECPA. The testimony notes the broad scope of the Commission’s authority to bring civil law enforcement actions to protect consumers, and the fact that FTC cases in the last two years have returned more than $154 million to consumers.

The testimony also highlights three areas of potential concern with the proposed reforms to ECPA that could affect the Commission’s civil law enforcement actions to protect consumers.

Among the areas of concern noted in the Commission’s testimony were the need to ensure that provisions requiring criminal warrants for access to information do not inadvertently block access to information by civil law enforcement.  For example, the recent proposals would require a criminal warrant for content even when the content is previously public commercial content that advertises or promotes goods or services, or content with the subscriber’s consent.

The Commission vote approving the testimony and its inclusion in the formal record was 4-0. Commissioner Julie Brill issued a statement.

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