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Public interest groups call plan to give FTC $1 billion for data abuse enforcement ‘crucial’

The groups said the FTC was 'overdue for an influx of resources.'

 

Colleen Cronin

Tech

Published Sep 23, 2021   Updated Sep 23, 2021, 1:29 pm CDT

Dozens of advocacy, civil rights, and consumer protection groups are showing their support for a plan from House Democrats that would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) $1 billion to fund a new bureau focused on protection of data privacy

Congress would allocate funding through the Build Back Better Act. The $1 billion would be used to create a division within the FTC that focuses on “unfair or deceptive acts or practices related to privacy, data security, identity theft, data abuses, and related matters.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, Consumer Reports, Public Citizen, and National Hispanic Media Coalition, are among the groups who signed the letter advocating that Congress take action. The letter was sent to congressional leadership and relevant committees in the House of Representatives and Senate.

“This funding will be crucial in enabling the FTC to meet its responsibilities to protect consumer privacy,” the letter reads. 

The letter outlines how the FTC can no longer keep up with its regulatory responsibilities in its current state.

“For far too long, Congress has failed to sufficiently fund the FTC to do the massive job with which it is tasked,” the letter says. “The agency is overdue for an influx of resources to help it play catch-up to the modern economy.”

The groups argued that staffing at the FTC has flatlined in recent years and decreased significantly since the 1970s. While the FTC only has 1,100 employees, the companies it regulates employ many more people, the letter said. For example, Facebook has 60,000 employees.

The funding “is especially important because it will enable the commission to protect people of color and low-income communities from identity theft, fraud, scams, and exploitation,” the letter said.

In addition to increasing funding, the letter called on Congress to create privacy laws to give the FTC the power to hold companies collecting large amounts of user data accountable.

“Legislators have a prime opportunity to help empower the FTC to go after companies that freely collect and monetize consumer data without their knowledge or consent,” the letter said.


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*First Published: Sep 23, 2021, 12:38 pm CDT