FTC Criticizes Vagueness Of Consumer Privacy Bill

As the Federal Trade Commission looks to work with the White House to tighten data security laws, consumer protection officials have been both proponents and critics of the Consumer Privacy Bill that was released last month from the White House.

While Jessica Rich, the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau Director, has been an advocate of the bill’s purpose, she, along with Edith Ramirez — another FTC official— have been sharp to criticize the bill recently, particularly because of the vagueness of the language the officials believe will leave too many loopholes against actually protecting consumers.

“We have concerns that many of the provisions in the draft legislation won’t provide consumers with the strong and enforceable protections needed to protect their privacy in this day and age,” Rich said in an interview Friday, March 6, with The Wall Street Journal. “There’s a lot of procedures and provisions that just create an enormous number of loopholes.”

Privacy advocates have complained that the bill has weak enforcement provisions and that the bill’s protections are predicated on a risk of actual harm, rather than on the principle of protecting consumer privacy. Critics of the bill said terms in the bill weren’t defined enough for consumers to actually understand what they are entitled to when it comes to privacy protection; others suggest the bill enables companies to self-enforce the regulations too much, WSJ reported.

Rich claimed that the legislation, as currently written, still gives companies the power to withhold data from a consumer, and provides them to power to maintain the control of the data without factoring in what’s best for the consumer. While the bill includes provisions to implement penalties for those companies that do violate consumer privacy rights, the FTC wants to change the section that allows for companies to avoid that penalty if the issue happens in the first 18 months of a business opening.

“It gives them the opportunity not to give consumers choices,” Rich said.

“We think the early life of a company is the time to add privacy to their business model,” she added.