Dems ask FTC if it needs more money to protect privacy

Dems ask FTC if it needs more money to protect privacy
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Democratic House leaders are asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if it needs more resources to adequately protect people's privacy and data amid growing concerns about the government’s ability to police Silicon Valley.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneAnti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Overnight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group House Democrats probe Trump administration's funding of anti-abortion group MORE (D-N.J.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyCongress has questions for Google's 'Sensorvault' Democratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer Bipartisan group asks DHS, ICE to halt deportations of Iraqi nationals MORE (D-Ill.), who leads the committee’s consumer protection subpanel, asked in a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons how his agency would be more proactive with dramatic increases to its budget.

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Citing a string of privacy incidents at major tech companies in the past year, the Democrats said they “believe that legislation is needed to protect the privacy of our constituents and that the FTC must have additional resources and authority to meet these 21st century challenges.”

A spokeswoman for the FTC declined to comment but confirmed that the agency had received the letter. Last week, the agency submitted a budget request to Congress of $312 million — an increase of just $6 million.

Pallone and Schakowsky posed three budget scenarios — an additional $50 million, $75 million or $100 million — and asked Simons what the agency would do with each potential increase.

The FTC is charged with policing Silicon Valley’s handling of user data, and many observers believe that the small agency has neither the resources nor the legal authority to adequately enforce the law on the nation’s biggest corporate behemoths.

The agency is reportedly working out a potential fine for Facebook after a yearlong investigation into the social network’s handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a political consulting firm improperly obtained data on tens of millions of users.

Simons was asked in a November hearing before a Senate Commerce subcommittee whether his agency had enough resources to fulfill its consumer protection mandate.

"I think we do, but let me also say that if we had additional resources I guarantee that they could be put to very good use," Simons responded.