What's the FTC and Why Should We Care?

Trust Guard - FTC Unlock

We've all heard of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), right? The FTC is the government's referee, serving for over 100 years; they blow the whistle and call fouls on businesses that may be playing dirty in the marketplace. Their goal is to protect consumers, promote fairness while ensuring and enforcing an open and free market in the United States (and globally). And my guess is, I'd be right in saying that you don't want any fouls called or penalties on your company's scoreboard, no one does. But you could be playing dirty without even knowing it if your privacy policy isn't addressing the right things.

The FTC has created and enforces multiple laws, acts and rules to promote privacy and security for consumers. In addition to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), these sector-specific laws include: the Truth in Lending Act, the CAN-SPAM Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act. And those are just the laws, there are multiple rules pertaining to and breaking down the laws as well. It's more than just a bit mind-boggling.

One of those breakdowns includes the FTC's Fair Information Practice Principles. These principles were first introduced 40 years ago, addressing a business' legal responsibility to keeping consumer's information safe and secure. Some of the underlying principles included the need for privacy by design, simplified choice for businesses and consumers and greater transparency when collecting and/or using information.

In a 2012 final Report, "Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change," the FTC revisits the Fair Information Practice Principles, recognizes the need for updates and proposes a series of best practices to collect and use consumer data; this is intended and useful for both companies and Congress when considering privacy legislation. As you can see, the FTC doesn't only have countless regulations for you to meet, but can change and update rapidly.

Right now, my guess is you're either worked up from the pressure of the liability on your hands, or in dire need of a nap because all of that information wasn't exactly high-speed car-chasing excitement. Regardless of which, making sure you're aware of how the FTC could impact business is super important.

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