FTC Mulls Rules To Control Tech Firms' Data Collection
Whether it’s the fitness tracker on your wrist, the “smart” home appliances in your house or the latest kids’ fad going viral in online videos, they all produce a trove of personal data for big tech companies, Marcy Gordon reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: Senators have grilled executives from Meta, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat about what they’re doing to ensure young users’ safety in the wake of suicides and other harms to teens attributed by their parents to their usage of the platforms.
How that data is being used and protected has led to growing public concern and officials’ outrage. And now federal regulators are looking at drafting rules to crack down on what they call harmful commercial surveillance and lax data security.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced the initiative Thursday, seeking public comment on the effects of companies’ data collection and the potential benefit of new rules to protect consumers’ privacy. The FTC defines commercial surveillance as “the business of collecting, analyzing and profiting from information about people.”
However, the officials said, the FTC’s ability to deter illegal conduct is limited because it generally lacks authority to seek financial penalties for initial violations of law. That could change if the comprehensive privacy legislation were to clear Congress.
“Firms now collect personal data on individuals at a massive scale and in a stunning array of contexts,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in an online news conference.
“Our goal today is to begin building a robust public record to inform whether the FTC should issue rules to address commercial surveillance and data security practices, and what those rules should potentially look like.”
In Congress, bipartisan condemnation of the data power of Meta — the parent of Facebook and Instagram — Google, and other tech giants that have earned riches by aggregating consumer information used by online advertisers, has brought national data privacy legislation to its closest point ever to passage.
Around the country, parents’ concern has deepened over the impact of social media on children. Frances Haugen, a former Facebook data scientist, stunned Congress and the public last fall when she exposed internal company research showing apparent serious harm to some teens from Instagram.
Those revelations were followed by senators grilling executives from YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat about what they’re doing to ensure young users’ safety in the wake of suicides and other harms to teens attributed by their parents to their usage of the platforms.