Julie Brill, May 20, 2011
Privacy issues are becoming increasingly important during this time of rapid technological advance. This article addresses the important question of how the FTC might balance the consumer protection concerns arising in the context of privacy with competition issues. It will first examine the basic principles of consumer protection and competition law, the two core missions of the FTC, and then take a look at some cases and other actions by the FTC outside the privacy realm that illustrate the different modes of interaction between the two areas of law. The agency’s careful balance of its two core missions becomes clear through this exercise. Next, the article will describe the most recent evolution of privacy law at the agency, and the FTC’s preliminary staff report on privacy. Included in the discussion will be a review of some of the latest privacy protection proposals from industry members. Finally, the article will discuss the interplay of some core consumer protection and competition principles in analyzing the privacy protection proposals.