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 TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill 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 PalloneOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills This week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch MORE (D-N.J.) and Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyHouse Democrats call on Trump administration to lift restrictions on fetal tissue for coronavirus research The Memo: Virus crisis upends political world Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers seek 5G rivals to Huawei | Amazon, eBay grilled over online counterfeits | Judge tosses Gabbard lawsuit against Google | GOP senator introduces bill banning TikTok on government devices 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.