FTC Seeks Funds To Boost Privacy Enforcement

The Federal Trade Commission wants a “significant increase” in personnel, in order to investigate and prosecute privacy cases.

The agency currently employees 40 full-time staff devoted to privacy and data security -- “far fewer than foreign data protection authorities,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons says in a letter sent this week to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey).

“The U.K. Information Commissioners' office has about 500 employees, and the Irish Data Protection Commissioner has about 110 employees,” Simons writes. “The FTC, as the federal entity primarily responsible for protecting consumers' privacy and data security in the United States (a much larger jurisdiction), should have more employees devoted to this effort.”

The letter came in response to questions from Pallone about how the agency would deploy additional funding for privacy and data security.

Simons said the FTC could hire around 160 more people with an extra $50 million, 260 additional people with $75 million and 360 new employees with $100 million.

He added that additional funding would allow the FTC to create new units, including one devoted to policy. “This unit would also include technologists to prepare original research on issues of interest, review referrals from privacy and security researchers, develop ideas for enforcement, and serve as a hub for technical expertise as needed on individual cases,” Simons wrote.

The FTC Chairman also reiterated a longstanding request for more legal authority to issue regulations, and to police common carriers, like telephone companies.

“Any privacy and data security legislation should extend the FTC's jurisdiction to non-profits and common carriers, which often collect sensitive consumer information,” Simons wrote. “Giving the FTC jurisdiction in these sectors would create a level playing field, ensuring that these entities would be subject to the same rules as others that collect similar types of data.”

Pallone and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois), chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, said in a joint statement that they will “look at giving the FTC more responsibilities in a comprehensive privacy law.”

"It's shocking that a nation of over 320 million people only has 40 people dedicated to privacy and data security at the FTC,” they stated. “We are glad that the FTC recognizes that it needs more authority, more technical resources, and more people to address privacy and data security.”

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