As the debate continues over how to best protect consumers’ privacy online, we’re seeing new proposals to amend how regulators guard against data abuses – including ones to create and stand up an entirely new federal agency to do the job.
We understand the desire to have a stronger cop on the beat. But rather than stand up a whole new police force, the smarter approach is to outfit the one that already knows the landscape – the Federal Trade Commission – with the tools it needs to successfully do the job.
Take it from Joe Simons, the agency’s own chairman, who outlined in a New York Times letter to the editor last week how the FTC has historically made cracking down on privacy abuses a priority. The best way to tackle commercial privacy abuses is not to stand up an “untested new bureaucracy that would enter the game in the fourth quarter,” but to provide the agency with more resources to do its job. And at a House hearing this week, Chairman Simons called for Congress to give the agency additional authority and resources to protect consumers’ privacy online.
We agree. The FTC has a proven track record of protecting consumers’ privacy to the fullest extent our laws have thus far allowed. They’ve gone to court and secured consent decrees against both the biggest companies in the world, and ones you’ve never heard of.
What the FTC needs now is a significant increase in tools, resources, and authority.
As part of our new paradigm for comprehensive privacy protections, we’re advocating for legislation that creates a new Data Protection Bureau at the agency to enhance its longstanding expertise in privacy and data security issues. This would come with additional staff and resources, and to make sure the agency can stay nimble and forceful as technology and business practices evolve, our approach would also give the agency new rulemaking authority to identify and prohibit additional harmful data practices in the future.
Congress should continue its work toward passing a federal privacy bill and ensure that any law gives more resources to this critical agency. It’s a necessary part of what should be everyone’s goal: providing comprehensive privacy protections to all Americans.