Blood bank settles FTC charges for failing to protect personal information

The FTC will receive the data brokers' submissions next month and then decide how to proceed after studying that feedback, said Ohlhausen, a Republican commissioner at the FTC. The agency said it plans to make recommendations on whether the data broker industry needs to improve its privacy practices.

Ohlhausen declined to comment further on the type of action the agency expects to take with respect to data brokers but said she expects the issue will be a "hot topic of discussion" in Congress in the "days ahead."

The FTC will continue to keep an eye on new advances in facial recognition technology, Ohlhausen said. The commission issued a set of guidelines this past fall for companies that employ the technology, which is used to identify people in photographs by their facial features.

Going forward, Ohlhausen said the commission will pay attention to whether companies are appropriately securing data that's collected via facial recognition software and giving consumers notice on how they plan to use that data and protect it. She said the FTC will also look at whether companies engage in deceptive practices while using facial recognition technology, such as using the data for a different purpose than the one they originally stated.

She voiced support for Congress to pass a federal data breach notification law to replace the patchwork of data-breach rules in various states. Efforts to pass a federal data breach notification standard have enjoyed bipartisan support over the years, but a bill has failed to pass Congress so far. 

"I believe a single standard would let companies know what to do and consumers know what to expect," Ohlhausen said.

She added that data breach legislation should be carefully crafted so it does not impose "undue costs" on businesses. The commissioner expects this type of measure "will likely get some traction in the new Congress" due to the past support it's received on both sides of the aisle, but cautioned that "it's always hard to predict what Congress will do."