Report: US Govt Needs New Authority to Improve Online Consumer Privacy

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The Government Accountability Office has called on Congress to create new legislation on internet privacy to better secure user data and give the government flexible authority to address evolving consumer concerns and digital threats. GAO issued a report on Wednesday that highlighted the lack of comprehensive internet privacy laws in the U.S.

The agency said the government needs legislation to govern how private companies collect, use or distribute user data. The call comes amid growing online privacy incidents in the U.S., including a 2018 report from Facebook revealing that personal data for 87M users was potentially improperly disclosed. 

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The Federal Trade Commission leads government efforts to oversee internet privacy and protect consumers from unfair and deceptive trade practices. However, GAO found the FTC’s existing policies focus on protecting the financial and internet privacy of children. To help address more online privacy concerns, stakeholders are suggests the federal government provides clarity about prohibited online behaviors, potential new regulations to improve oversight and give FTC a civil penalty authority. 

“Comprehensive internet privacy legislation that establishes specific standards and includes traditional notice-and-comment rulemaking and broader civil penalty authority could enhance the federal government’s ability to protect consumer privacy,” GAO said.

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