Are new rules on tech companies needed to protect consumer data?

New iPhone 13 smartphones are introduced during a virtual event held to announce new Apple products.

Seen on the screen of a device in La Habra, California, new iPhone 13 smartphones are introduced during a virtual event held to announce new Apple products on Sept. 14, 2021. Apple plans to roll out a “lockdown” option for iPhones, iPads and Mac computers intended to protect against spyware unleashed by state-sponsored hackers — although enabling it will also make these devices less useful. The safeguard was announced on Wednesday, July 6, 2022.

Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

The Federal Trade Commission will soon be seeking public comment on the impact of commercial surveillance and possible benefits of rules on tech companies to protect consumers’ data privacy.

In a rulemaking proposal notice published Thursday, the commission asks for public comment on whether the commission should adopt rules on how companies use consumer data as well as companies profiting off data “in ways that are unfair or deceptive.”

The FTC gave a number of concerns regarding commercial surveillance including lax data security and harms to children.

Commercial surveillance is defined as the “business of collecting, analyzing, and profiting from information about people,” according to the FTC.

“Technologies essential to everyday life also enable near constant surveillance of people’s private lives,” the FTC notice read. “Mass surveillance has heightened the risks and stakes of errors, deception, manipulation, and other abuses.”

According to the Associated Press, the FTC has taken hundreds of actions against companies over the last two decades for breaches of privacy and data security.

In May, the FTC fined Twitter $150 million for deceptively using data from consumers for targeted advertising.

The commission found Twitter gathered user information, such as email and phone numbers, for security purposes but then used that information for targeted advertising and profit without notifying users.

The rulemaking proposal was approved 3-2 by the five FTC commissioners with Chairwoman Lina Khan and two Democratic commissioners approving and the two Republican commissioners opposing, the AP reported.

Public comment for the proposal will open virtually on Sept. 8 from 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET. Commenters will have to register by August 31 to speak.

Carlene Coombs

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