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US Federal Trade Commission Says It Lacks Resources to Go After Privacy Violations Effectively

MAY 8, 2019 / FTC Chairman Joseph Simons testifying at a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee

At hearing on Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urged Congress to pass data privacy legislation and enhance its authority to police large tech companies. Some members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce advised that FTC's current enforcement system is not enough to deter big companies from engaging in harmful data privacy practices.

Inconsequential fines are just parking tickets: "For some firms, fines are a parking ticket and a cost of doing business,” says FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Florida adds: "No CEO is going to blink an eye at a fine that inconsequential. Companies will just see small FTC fines as the cost of doing business and will continue to elevate profits over privacy."

FTC's $5.7 million fine against Musical.ly, also known as TikTok, over alleged Children's Online Privacy Protection Act violations was less than 1% of parent company ByteDance's annual revenue.

Compared to the UK, FTC only has 8% of the staff devoted to privacy: The agency currently has 40 employees focused on privacy cases as compared to 140 at the Irish Data Protection Commission, which oversees Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies' compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and UK has 500 at its Information Commissioner's Office.

Watch the full hearing here.

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