FTC Bolsters IT Resources to Protect Consumer Data

by Matt Klassen on April 10, 2015

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is bolstering its ability to oversee commercial entities in this digital age through the establishment of a new Office of Technology Research and Investigation, or OTRI.

It’s clear that the FTC is taking on a larger role in helping regulate the impact of information technology on American consumers, and subsequently the Commission needs to evolve into an agency that has the technological tools, awareness, and know-how to effectively monitor corporate American and protect citizens from this new wave of digital threats.

But while the mandate of this new office is to allow the FTC to better protect the American public from data breaches and cyber-crime, the impetus for the creation of the office is not in response to a national security threat or some disconcerting cyber-intelligence threat, per se, but instead the OTRI is a proactive response to the growing concern that corporate entities may not be disclosing information about data breaches, nor are they doing enough to protect American consumers; giving the FTC authority to respond to digital transgressions as an extension of its ability to investigate business fraud and similar offenses.

“This is a natural evolution for the FTC. As technology gets more complex, and matters hinge on the use and misuse of technology, the FTC needs to be able to better judge whether organizations are doing the right thing,” said Lisa Sotto, a partner at Hunton & Williams.

“Without a clear understanding of the technology that underpins the use of data, the FTC would not be able to carry out its mission effectively. Having more staff technologists will allow the FTC to better assess whether businesses are using technology in reasonable ways,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

With the creation of the OTRI the FTC will be looking to hire staffers with strong IT backgrounds, part of a agency wide realization that the FTC needs to bolster its resources to better understand and keep pace with IT developments.

“The FTC has been working hard to understand the technologies that are now ubiquitous in the private sector,” Sotto pointed out. “The new unit is intended to assist the commission in carrying out its consumer protection mission in a more effective manner.”

Simply put, we may have witnessed the first example of proactive government in the digital age, a move designed not as a response to a specific problem, but as part of a realization that problems may be coming down the road and the FTC needs to be prepared to face them head-on.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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