Democrats Attempt to Boost FTC Privacy Authority

Republican majority rebuffs effort at markup
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The House Energy & Commerce Committee has defeated two Democratic amendments to a reform bill that would have given the FTC authority to regulate broadband ISP consumer privacy and more authority to regulate edge provider privacy.

That came in a full committee mark-up Thursday on H.R. 5510, the FTC Process and Transparency Reform Act of 2016, that would clarify what conduct the Federal Trade Commission can cite for unfairness under its authority to go after unfair and deceptive practices and how it determines that to be the case. The Judiciary Committee is also considering the FTC reform bill.

One amendment would have given the FTC authority to create rules that protect consumer privacy on websites. The Democrats on the committee said that if the Republicans want a level playing field in broadband privacy, rather than prevent the FCC from adopting new rules on broadband privacy, a better answer is give the FTC more FCC-like rulemaking authority. Republicans countered that was a slippery slope, that the FTC was an enforcement agency, not a rulemaking agency.

That amendment was defeated by a vote of 27 to 17.

A second amendment would have eliminated the common carrier exemption that required the FCC to take over broadband privacy oversight when it reclassified ISPs as common carriers. Democrats argued that would be an elegant solution to boosting the FTC's ability to regulate privacy. Republicans said that the FCC would not give up its abusive, mission creep authority just because the FTC also got oversight. That amendment was defeated by a voice vote.

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