GOP Senators Urge FTC To Scrap Privacy Rulemaking

Three Republican senators are urging the Federal Trade Commission to abandon an initiative that could result in online privacy regulations, arguing that Congress should determine how companies should treat data.

“The FTC should not exceed its authority to set national standards for data privacy and security and should instead leave that work to Congress,” Senators Cynthia Lummis (Wyoming), Kevin Cramer (North Dakota) and Marco Rubio (Florida) say in a letter sent last week to FTC Chair Lina Khan.

They add that new FTC regulations would “create confusion” and increase costs for businesses, given that five states have already passed their own privacy laws.

“By undertaking this rulemaking action, the FTC will only add to the compliance burden facing small businesses,” the lawmakers write.

“Consumer data privacy and security are complex issues which will require standards that are robust, adaptive, and can balance the interests of consumers with the needs of businesses,” the letter states. “We believe that this balance can only be struck within federal legislation that is comprehensive and preemptive, such that the law creates a single national standard.”

The letter comes in response to the FTC's recent “advance notice of proposed rulemaking” -- the first step in a lengthy process that could lead to new regulations. In the advance notice, the FTC sought comments about “commercial surveillance” -- which it defined as "the collection, aggregation, analysis, retention, transfer, or monetization of consumer data and the direct derivatives of that information."

Some consumer groups praise the FTC's initiative, while the advertising industry has generally opposed it. The umbrella group Privacy for America has argued that Congress, not the FTC, should set privacy standards. That organization also suggested it would challenge FTC privacy rules in court.

The FTC is accepting comments through November 21.

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