FTC Submits Comments to NTIA on Consumer Privacy

Staff of the Federal Trade Commission calls for a balanced approach that protects both consumer privacy and innovation in a comment submitted to the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) as part of that agency’s consumer privacy proceeding.

In its comment to NTIA, staff notes the FTC’s extensive experience in protecting consumer privacy and fostering innovation. For decades, the Commission has brought hundreds of cases protecting the privacy and security of consumer information—both online and offline—held by large and small companies. In addition, the Commission also conducts consumer and business education and policy development to promote privacy and the security of consumer data. 

The FTC is uniquely situated to balance consumers’ interests in privacy, innovation, and competition, according to the comment. In particular, the FTC’s dual mission of protecting competition and consumer protection gives the Commission a deep understanding of the benefits and costs to consumers associated with the use of their data.  

In response to some of the specific topics raised by NTIA, the comment reiterates the FTC’s commitment to data security. The comment also summarizes the importance of companies’ making accurate disclosures about privacy. The comment calls for a balanced approach to choice, where the level of control would depend on consumer preferences, context, and risk. It also notes that the Commission should continue to be the primary enforcer of laws related to information flows in the marketplace, whether under the existing or a new privacy and security framework. The comment adds that the Commission will be examining its current authority related to privacy and data security as part of its series of hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.

In discussing the future of privacy policymaking in the United States, the comment reiterates the agency’s longstanding call for data security and breach notification legislation. The comment further notes that both Congress and the Administration are considering federal privacy legislation, and that the Commission strongly supports those efforts. Any legislation should balance consumers’ legitimate concerns about the protections afforded to the collection, use, and sharing of their data with business’ need for clear rules of the road, consumers’ demand for data-driven products and services, and the importance of flexible frameworks that foster innovation. At the same time, the Commission commits to use its extensive expertise and experience to vigorously enforce any legislation that may emerge from these efforts.

The Commission voted 5-0 to authorize FTC staff to file the comment with NTIA.

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