TechFreedom President Testifies before Senate Subcommittee Today
WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, TechFreedom President Berin Szóka will testify on the need for FTC reform, particularly in regard to its policing of data security and privacy, before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security.
Szóka’s written testimony states:
The question is not whether the FTC should be the Federal Technology Commission, but how it wields its powers. For all that academics like to talk about creating a Federal Search Commission or a Federal Robotics Commission, and for all the talk in Washington of passing “comprehensive baseline privacy legislation” or data security legislation, the most important questions turn on the FTC’s processes, standards, and institutional structure. How the FTC and Congress handle these seemingly banal matters could be even more important in determining how consumer protection works in 2117 than will any major legislative lurches over the next century … Yet, rather than promulgate rules or provide any clear guidance, the FTC has instead chosen to approach the issue through case-by-case enforcement actions, almost always ending in consent decrees, which do not admit liability and only focus on prospective requirements of the specific defendant in that case.
Congress has not made significant changes to the FTC Act since 1994. Szóka submitted joint testimony last year on 17 FTC reform bills proposed in the House. His prepared remarks provide an overview of today’s testimony, and conclude:
Regardless of what Congress does, the FTC must provide more and better guidance on how companies can comply with the law. This will both avoid arbitrary enforcement and also ensure that consumers are protected by good data security and fair privacy practices. Since 2010, the FTC has issued a flurry of reports asserting what companies should do but without any substantial analysis of why, or how to strike the right balance. Acting Chairman Ohlhausen should be commended for convening a workshop in December on how to define “informational injuries.” This is a golden opportunity for the FTC to take a more empirically grounded approach to data security and privacy — just as it did with environmental marketing claims through the Green Guides the FTC has updated regularly since 1992.
- An op-ed on the future of the FTC
- Our statement on the flaws in the FTC’s 2016 big data report
- Our most recent amicus brief in the FTC’s lawsuit against LabMD
TechFreedom is a non-profit, non-partisan technology policy think tank. We work to chart a path forward for policymakers towards a bright future where technology enhances freedom, and freedom enhances technology.