What’s Next For The FTC And Net Threats?


Spam? Spyware? Data breaches? Telephone records confidentiality? Old issues.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras wants to know
what’s next.


Majoras said the FTC plans hearings some time this fall to ponder the next generation
of consumer high-tech threats.

“At these
hearings, we will address a series of critical questions: What have we
learned over the past decade? How can we apply those lessons to what we do
know, and what we cannot know, as we look to the future?”

She said the focus of the hearings will be
how best to protect consumers in the virtual marketplace of the future.


“A decade has passed since the FTC held hearings to identity significant
consumer protection issues associated with new technologies,” Majoras told a
Washington spyware conference. “It is again time to look ahead and examine
the next generation of issues to emerge in our high-tech global
marketplace.”


Majoras noted that the FTC held similar hearings in 1995. At that conference, more than 70 experts in business, technology, economics
and consumer protection analyzed the consumer protection challenges likely
to emerge in the late 1990s and early 21st century.


“No one even mentioned spyware or similar intrusive software,” she said.
“Today, however, spyware is fast overtaking spam as consumers’ top online
concern.”


She did concede that the hearing participants were unaware of the emergence of spyware. “Ten years now
is an eternity for technology, and the technological underpinnings for
spyware were just being developed at about the time of the FTC’s hearings.”


Although the 1995 FTC panel missed spyware as an emerging threat, Majoras
said four principal lessons from the conference are still relevant.


“First, we must study and evaluate new technologies so that we are as
prepared as possible to deal with harmful, collateral developments,” Majoras
said.

“Second, we need to bring appropriate law enforcement actions to
reaffirm that fundamental principles of FTC law apply in the context of new
technologies.”


Majoras said the third principal lesson is that the FTC must look to private
enterprise to implement self-regulatory regimes and “more importantly, to
develop new technologies.”


Finally, she said, the FTC needs to educate consumers so that they can take
the necessary steps to protect themselves.


“It is again time to look ahead and examine the next generation of issues to
emerge in our high-tech global marketplace,” Majoras said.

News Around the Web