The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be holding a series of hearings this fall on “Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century,” with the goal of reflecting on the agency’s powers, and state attorneys general (AGs) want to make sure their voices are heard.
A bipartisan group of 29 state AGs filed comments with the FTC on August 20, 2018, asking it to consider their unique viewpoints and expertise as state regulators who are “in the forefront of consumer protection.” The FTC hearings begin on September 13 with a schedule that includes a panel on “The Regulation of Consumer Data” featuring former acting chair Maureen Ohlhausen and former FTC staff members and academics. As the FTC opens its doors for a public discussion on how its enforcement priorities and policies affecting consumers might change, especially with a new slate of commissioners, the AGs want to be seen as partners. In particular, they want be part of the conversation on privacy and data security, as has been a strong trend in recent years.
“In our experiences, consumer privacy and data security is an afterthought in product and service development. Industry often does not adequately invest in privacy and security. Consumer data has inherent value and the free market alone does not adequately protect sensitive data. Consumers have voiced concerns to us about what personal information industry collects, how industry informs consumers about data collection, and how industry uses and shares consumers’ data. Industry must place privacy and security front and center in its research and development of products and services,” the comment stated.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum led the comments, joined by the AGs of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C.
The comment is exemplary of state AGs’ significant involvement in privacy and data security matters, whether in advocating for and enforcing state breach laws, scrutinizing the data practices of social media companies or engaging in other consumer protection efforts. Their partnership with the FTC is also similar to some AGs’ work in tandem with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), with states working enthusiastically with the agency to promote enforcement in times of active regulation and then stepping up when the agency is less active.