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 TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers 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 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.) and Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyDemocratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer Bipartisan group asks DHS, ICE to halt deportations of Iraqi nationals FTC has received 26,000 complaints about Facebook privacy violations since 2012 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.