FTC kicks off efforts to regulate data security and surveillance tech

The Federal Trade Commission is officially starting its efforts to broadly regulate data security. The agency has published an early notice of proposed rulemaking that asks the public to comment on commercial surveillance and data gathering practices, such as camera monitoring or protections for sensitive info. Officials not only want to understand the harms and benefits of technologies, but gauge interest in rules that could require stricter safeguards (such as tougher encryption) and bans on deceptive security claims.

The FTC’s request for input also touches on specific issues, such as biased surveillance systems and algorithmic errors. Similarly, regulators are interested in whether or not existing data security practices hurt children.

In explaining the proposal, the FTC was concerned that enforcement by itself was not enough to protect consumers. The Commission cannot seek civil penalties for first-time violators, for instance. In theory, new rules would encourage stronger security policies, provide more relief to hack victims and ensure a more consistent approach to cases.

On top of the comments, you’ll have a chance for more direct feedback. The FTC is hosting a virtual public forum on September 8th that will give people two minutes each to share their views. The session will also include a panel discussion.

The FTC is still far from outlining rules, let alone putting them into effect. Even so, there’s plenty of pressure to act. Governments at multiple levels in the US are increasingly banning or withdrawing at least some uses of surveillance technology, and there’s a growing backlash against companies that either use personal data or are prone to data breaches. New regulations could reduce violations and otherwise ensure that data holders show more respect for your privacy.

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