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Some US regulators considering new consumer data privacy rules; others want to pass

Some US regulators considering new consumer data privacy rules; others want to pass
 

Apparently not happy to court controversy one decision at a time, U.S. regulator the Federal Trade Commission is going for a two-for-one deal. The commission is considering rulemaking for the business of biometric and other personal data.

But not all commissioners want the FTC to make rules. They – and they are in the conservative minority – think the agency should only regulate at the direction of the Congress. Lawmakers have not directed the FTC to do something about personal data of consumers, so it should sit on its hands.

Both views will rankle some people, primarily the latter because it tramps into a battle in the decades-long culture war (government is good/government is evil.)

The commission Monday posted what it calls an advance notice of proposed rulemaking – a way of telling anyone interested in a topic that it wants input before a decision. In this case, the decision would be to regulate or not.

An online forum will be held September 8, from 2 p.m. Eastern time to 7:30, and open to the public through this link.

The agency also is weighing options on commercial surveillance.

The FTC’s liberal majority wants public input about regulating unfair or deceptive practices in how companies “collect, aggregate, protect, use, analyze, and retain consumer data, as well as transfer, share, sell, or otherwise monetize that data.”

That is a loaded question, of course.

Consumers with an opinion about how their biometric data is managed and mismanaged are likely going to say the FTC and other government decisionmakers should stop any abuse aggressively. That is because biometric data is unique in its potential for life-altering harm.

But comparatively few Americans ever stop to think about their Constitutional right to privacy, and those who do think in terms of private phone calls and email and what happens in their homes.

Likewise, few Americans even care to know about the role of the legislative branch (the elected Congress) versus the largely unelected executive branch (the White House and agencies like the FTC).

On the question of biometric and other personal data, the opposing sides will argue over the heads of consumers. As a commodity, personal data is valuable to businesses, but personal data is a priceless commodity for individuals. Privacy advocates will strain their budgets to fight this battle.

This dynamic continues to play out in the U.S. state of California.

Earlier this month, the California Privacy Protection Agency said it officially opposed House of Representatives Resolution 8152 – the proposed American Data Privacy and Protection Act.

The agency’s board says that the bill would nullify the state’s own rules with what they say are watered-down provisions. As critical as this debate is, it is unlikely to engender passion with the public.

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