FTC says it only has 40 employees overseeing privacy and data security

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Wednesday told Congress that it only has 40 full-time employees dedicated to overseeing internet privacy and data security and requested lawmakers give the agency more resources to adequately police tech companies.

FTC Chairman Joseph Simons, a Republican appointed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE, wrote in a letter to House leaders this week that the commission lags far behind other developed countries’ data watchdogs.

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"For example, the U.K. Information Commissioners' office has about 500 employees, and the Irish Data Protection Commissioner has about 110 employees,” Simons wrote. “Although these entities have somewhat different mandates, the contrast is stark.

"The FTC, as the federal entity primarily responsible for protecting consumers' privacy and data security in the United States (a much larger jurisdiction), should have more employees devoted to this effort."

Simons was responding to a letter that Reps. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneLawmakers set to host fundraisers focused on Nats' World Series trip CBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech platforms MORE (D-N.J.) and Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems change drug pricing bill to address progressive concerns | Top Republican rejects Dem proposal on surprise medical bills | Vaping group launches Fox News ad blitz Hillicon Valley: FCC approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Dems wrangle over breaking up Big Tech at debate | Critics pounce as Facebook's Libra stumbles | Zuckerberg to be interviewed by Fox News | Twitter details rules for political figures' tweets Lawmakers hit Trump administration for including tech legal shield in trade negotiations MORE (D-Ill.) sent last month asking if the agency needed more resources to police internet giants. Lawmakers have grown increasingly concerned about Silicon Valley’s handling of user privacy and the government’s ability to hold companies accountable for abusing or mishandling consumers’ data.

“It's shocking that a nation of over 320 million people only has 40 people dedicated to privacy and data security at the FTC,” the two Democrats said in a joint statement on Tuesday. “We are glad that the FTC recognizes that it needs more authority, more technical resources, and more people to address privacy and data security. We will look at giving the FTC more responsibilities in a comprehensive privacy law, but in the meantime we need to ensure that it has the resources necessary to effectively protect consumers."

Pallone and Schakowsky had posited three different budget scenarios to Simons, asking what his agency would do with budget increases of $50 million, $75 million and $100 million.

The FTC chairman said that an additional $50 million would allow the agency to hire 160 new staffers, $75 million would get 260 and $100 million would get 360.

Simons said that the additional staff would allow the commission to bring more privacy cases. He said that the current 40 employees have averaged about 20 cases a year over the past five years.