Markey Joins Blumenthal, Colleagues Call For Historic FTC Rulemaking On Consumer Privacy, Civil Rights & Cyber Security Safeguards – Ed Markey


 

“Consumer privacy has become a consumer
crisis.”

 

Washington (September 20, 2021) – Today, U.S. Senator Edward J.
Markey (D-Mass.) joined Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chair of the
Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer
Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, and group of eight other
Democratic senators in calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to advance
a rulemaking process to strengthen consumer privacy, bolster civil rights, and
establish guardrails on the collection and use of consumers’ personal data. The
senators’ letter comes amid ongoing concerns about Big Tech’s unimpeded access
and abuse of consumer’s private information, anti-competitive behavior, and
data breaches, as well as alarm over rising discrimination using personal data
that undermine civil rights. 

 

“We believe that a national standard for data privacy and security
is urgently needed to protect consumers, reinforce civil rights, and safeguard
our nation’s cybersecurity,” 
wrote
the senators to FTC Chair Lina Khan. “Accordingly,
and in parallel to congressional efforts to create federal privacy laws to give
power back to consumers, the Commission should take advantage of every tool in
its toolkit to protect consumers’ privacy
.”

 

The senators emphasized a number of urgent consumer protections
that should be addressed by the rulemaking, including the banning of
exploitative targeting of children and teens and other specific practices,
implementing opt-in consent rules on the use of personal data, and global
opt-out standards. 

 

“Consumers deserve strong and enforceable privacy safeguards in
the digital economy – opening a rulemaking would be a powerful step toward
addressing this long overdue need,”
 the lawmakers wrote.

 

The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii),
Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ben Ray Luján  (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and
Cory Booker (D-N.J). The full text of the letter can be found here and
below. 

 

 

 

September 20, 2021

 

 

 

The Honorable Lina Khan

Chair

Federal Trade Commission

600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20580

 

 

Dear Chair Khan,

 

We write to encourage the
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to begin a rulemaking process to protect
consumer privacy, promote civil rights, and set clear safeguards on the
collection and use of personal data in the digital economy. As Congress
continues to develop national privacy legislation, FTC action on this front
will ensure that Americans have every tool at their disposal to protect their
privacy in today’s online marketplace. 

 

Consumer privacy has become a
consumer crisis. Big Tech companies have used their unchecked access to private
personal information to create in-depth profiles about nearly all Americans and
to protect their market position against competition from startups. Consumers
have been forced to accept continuous data breaches and security lapses that
compromise their intimate personal records. Americans’ identities have become
the currency in an unregulated, hidden economy of data brokers that buy and
sell sensitive information about their families, religious beliefs, healthcare
needs, and every movement to shadowy interests, often without their awareness
and consent. Meanwhile, communities of color have faced setbacks in the fight
to protect their civil rights as new forms of discrimination have proliferated
on social media platforms. This sustained failure has fostered a market that
punishes companies for protecting and respecting users, rather than rewarding
pro-consumer practices.[1]
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We believe that a national
standard for data privacy and security is urgently needed to protect consumers,
reinforce civil rights, and safeguard our nation’s cybersecurity. Accordingly,
and in parallel to congressional efforts to create federal privacy laws to give
power back to consumers, the Commission should take advantage of every tool in
its toolkit to protect consumers’ privacy. Continuous high-profile and costly
privacy violations and data breaches have shown the limits of the FTC’s general
prohibition on unfair and deceptive practices. Big Tech companies have
routinely broken their promises to consumers and neglected their legal
obligations, only to receive wrist-slap punishments after long delay, providing
little relief to consumers, and with minimal deterrent effect.

 

We urge the Commission to
undertake a rulemaking process with the goal of protecting consumer data; the
rulemaking should consider strong protections for the data of members of
marginalized communities, prohibitions on certain practices (such as the
exploitative targeting of children and teens), opt-in consent rules on use of
personal data, and global opt-out standards[2].
Under the FTC Act, the Commission is able to promulgate rules to define and
prevent business practices that violate our consumer protection law’s prohibition
on unfair or deceptive acts or practices. FTC Commissioners Chopra, Slaughter,
and Wilson, and former FTC Chairs have all provided compelling arguments that
unfair and deceptive practices are prevalent in the digital economy and that
the market has failed consumers. These arguments are bolstered by the FTC’s
enforcement record, numerous staff reports, and revealing market
investigations.[3] 
This record provides a powerful and compelling basis for urgent action.
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The FTC has substantial
institutional knowledge and expertise to contribute to the legislative process
through its track record of enforcement and its existing privacy authorities,
such as those under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the Fair
Credit Reporting Act. An FTC rulemaking initiative would contribute to
congressional efforts to develop federal privacy legislation through the
research, public comment record, and dialogue required under the Commission’s
rulemaking procedure under the Mag-Moss process.[4]

 

Consumers deserve strong and
enforceable privacy safeguards in the digital economy – opening a rulemaking
would be a powerful step toward addressing this long overdue need. 

 

Thank you for your attention
to this important matter.

 

Sincerely,





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