The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), often lauded for its efforts to protect consumers from data breaches and privacy violations, hasn’t done enough to shield them from large tech companies like Facebook and Google, a Republican senator told the agency, calling its approach “toothless.”
“The FTC has a special role to play in protecting consumers,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., wrote in a letter to the commission. “Any robust definition of consumer welfare must acknowledge that these companies have harmed consumers by conditioning participation in the modern public square on giving away enormous – and growing – amounts of personal information and by leveraging scale to cripple emerging competitors in their infancy.”
The companies, Hawley wrote, have adopted an “'ask forgiveness rather than seek permission’ mentality” when it comes to sharing data with third parties, breaking promises such as Facebook’s pledge to “maintain separation” between its and WhatsApp’s platforms, misleading consumers about the nature of “location data” as Google has and monitoring consumers’ use of other apps.
While Hawley expressed dismay that the FTC had not “enforced the law as vigorously as it should,” he said he was “cautiously optimistic about the creation of an FTC task force to address” the issues and which he hoped “will have more substance than show.”