Ad Industry Says $1 Billion For FTC Should Be Accompanied By National Privacy Law

A funding boost for the Federal Trade Commission to create a new data protection bureau should be accompanied by a national privacy law, ad industry groups say.

"The U.S. needs both a strong privacy regulator and a rational, comprehensive national consumer privacy law,” Leigh Freund, CEO and president of the self-regulatory organization Network Advertising Initiative stated Monday.

She added that while the FTC needs more resources, increasing funding without establishing a national standard “will still leave U.S. consumers and businesses subject to a jumble of incompatible state and international laws.”

House Democrats recently advanced a budget proposal that includes $1 billion for the FTC to create a new bureau devoted to issues including privacy, security, other related to data. The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the proposal on Wednesday.

The Association of National Advertisers, which also weighed in on the budget proposal, likewise says a funding increase should be tied to a national privacy law.

“ANA and many other associations and companies are strong supporters of the creation of a new FTC Privacy Bureau and further funding and staff to support this effort,” the organization stated last week in a blog post. “This support, however, is predicated on the development of a national privacy law that spells out in detail the appropriate use of data and their concomitant privacy protections.”

Ad industry groups have been pressing for a national law that would override individual state laws since 2018 -- the year California passed a sweeping privacy bill that allows state residents to opt out of the sale of their data.

Privacy advocates last week urged lawmakers to approve the proposed $1 billion increase for the agency.

“The FTC is vastly underfunded and understaffed, particularly in comparison to the large, well-funded entities that it is tasked with regulating,” the ACLU, Consumer Reports, Public Knowledge and 24 other organizations said Thursday in a letter to House and Senate leaders.

The groups elaborated that the FTC currently has 1,100 employees, compared to nearly 60,000 employees at Facebook.

“The federal government has stalled in reining in giant technology companies, even as these businesses have grown bigger and more powerful,” the groups write. “Now, legislators have a prime opportunity to help empower the FTC to go after companies that freely collect and monetize consumer data without their knowledge or consent.”

The watchdogs have also long called for a national privacy law -- but one that would allow states to pass more stringent protections.

“For years, advocates have called on legislators to adopt a federal privacy law, but there is still no comprehensive federal law that governs the collection, use, and sharing of consumer data, even as industry’s data collection and monetization practices have become ever more invasive,” the organizations said last week in their letter.

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