The FTC’s Annual Privacy and Data Security Update Highlights Enforcement and a Busy Future

On January 18, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released its Annual Privacy and Data Security Update, which highlights the agency’s enforcement efforts and puts companies on notice that the FTC will remain vigilant about new products and services.  As noted in its release, the FTC “is the nation’s primary privacy and data security enforcer and one of the most active privacy and data security enforcers in the world.” 

The report provides summaries of major privacy and data security cases brought by the FTC.  In 2017, the FTC filed charges against companies across a wide variety of industries and sectors; and all indications are that the agency will remain an active enforcer in this space in the year ahead.  

One of the cases cited involved a settlement between the FTC, along with 32 State Attorneys General, and a major computer manufacturer.  When that settlement was announced, we discussed several important issues arising from the case and how it highlights legal risks companies need to be aware of with certain data analytics practices. 

In 2017, the FTC also settled charges against a smart TV manufacturer and stepped up its enforcement of the FTC Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).   

Additionally, the agency brought its first charges against companies under the European Union-United States Privacy Shield framework, settling with three U.S. companies charged with misleading consumers about their participation in the framework.

Outside of enforcement actions, the update summarized rulemaking efforts and other collaborative engagement with external stakeholders.  The FTC provided guidance on COPPA’s reach to Internet of Things (IoT) devices, hosted workshops related to informational injury and connected vehicles, and accepted public comments related to a prior Order which may impact IoT device manufacturers and companies using or collecting consumer data from such devices.

Looking ahead, the FTC asserts that it will continue to prioritize such rulemaking and enforcement actions, noting in the report, that these efforts have “prepared and positioned the agency to continue to be the leading U.S. agency on privacy and data security.”  As we enter a more connected digital future, the FTC will remain a factor for manufacturers and innovators across the economy.

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