No New Privacy Legislation, FTC Chairman Confirms

05 October 2001

As expected [WAMN: 04-Oct-01], Federal Trade Commission chairman Timothy J Muris announced Thursday that the agency will not be seeking further legislation to protect consumer privacy.

Speaking at the Cleveland Privacy 2001 Conference, Muris argued: “It is too soon to conclude that we can fashion workable legislation. We need to develop better information about how such legislation would work and the costs and benefits it would generate.”

Explaining the decision, Muris cited the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, which obliges financial firms to tell customers their policies for protecting personal data.

“The recent experience with Gramm-Leach-Bliley privacy notices should give everyone pause about whether we know enough to implement barely comprehensible privacy notices,” he stated. “Acres of trees died to produce a blizzard of barely comprehensible privacy notices.”

Muris added that the FTC would step up its enforcement of current regulations, including a clamp-down on misuse of spam emailing, an enforcement of online privacy policies, a drive to eradicate pretexting and several measures to help victims of ID theft.

In addition, telemarketers will be forced to refer to a national ‘do-not-call’ list, while the FTC will police its telemarketing sales regulations more thoroughly, including efforts to prevent misuse of credit card details to charge consumers for goods without their open consent.

The speech was well received by marketing lawyers, though some questions were raised regarding the FTC’s legal authority to enforce a ‘do-not-call’ register.

“It’s a solid, well-considered agenda,” said one such lawyer. “It’s tough on liars, cheaters and scammers with no new rules that hurt honest businesses and consumers. The toughest new announcement for mainstream marketers is the assertion that the FTC will enforce privacy promises.”

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