What's Next For The FTC And Net Threats?

by Roy Mark

It's been more than 10 years since the agency examined the threats of the future.

Spam? Spyware? Data breaches? Telephone records confidentiality? Old issues. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras wants to know what's next.

Majoras said the FTC plans hearings some time this fall to ponder the next generation of consumer high-tech threats.

"At these hearings, we will address a series of critical questions: What have we learned over the past decade? How can we apply those lessons to what we do know, and what we cannot know, as we look to the future?"

She said the focus of the hearings will be how best to protect consumers in the virtual marketplace of the future.

"A decade has passed since the FTC held hearings to identity significant consumer protection issues associated with new technologies," Majoras told a Washington spyware conference. "It is again time to look ahead and examine the next generation of issues to emerge in our high-tech global marketplace."

Majoras noted that the FTC held similar hearings in 1995. At that conference, more than 70 experts in business, technology, economics and consumer protection analyzed the consumer protection challenges likely to emerge in the late 1990s and early 21st century.

"No one even mentioned spyware or similar intrusive software," she said. "Today, however, spyware is fast overtaking spam as consumers' top online concern."

She did concede that the hearing participants were unaware of the emergence of spyware. "Ten years now is an eternity for technology, and the technological underpinnings for spyware were just being developed at about the time of the FTC's hearings."

Although the 1995 FTC panel missed spyware as an emerging threat, Majoras said four principal lessons from the conference are still relevant.

"First, we must study and evaluate new technologies so that we are as prepared as possible to deal with harmful, collateral developments," Majoras said.

"Second, we need to bring appropriate law enforcement actions to reaffirm that fundamental principles of FTC law apply in the context of new technologies."

Majoras said the third principal lesson is that the FTC must look to private enterprise to implement self-regulatory regimes and "more importantly, to develop new technologies."

Finally, she said, the FTC needs to educate consumers so that they can take the necessary steps to protect themselves.

"It is again time to look ahead and examine the next generation of issues to emerge in our high-tech global marketplace," Majoras said.

Article courtesy of internetnews.com

This article was originally published on Saturday Feb 11th 2006