Today, the 99th anniversary of the founding of the Federal Trade Commission, TF’s Berin Szoka and Geoffrey Manne wrote in TechDirt about the agency’s dominant role in governing technology. They begin:
You may not know much about the most important agency in Washington when it comes to regulating new technologies. Founded 99 years ago today, the Federal Trade Commission has become, for better or worse, the Federal Technology Commission.
The FTC oversees nearly every company in America. It polices competition by enforcing the antitrust laws. It tries to protect consumers by punishing deception and practices it deems “unfair.” It’s the general enforcer of corporate promises. It’s the de facto regulator of the media, from traditional advertising to Internet search and social networks. It handles novel problems of privacy, data security, online child protection, and patent claims, among others. Even Net neutrality may soon wind up in the FTC’s jurisdiction if the Federal Communications Commission’s rules are struck down in court.
But how should the FTC regulate technology? What’s the right mix of the certainty businesses need and the flexibility technological progress demands?