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FCC's consumer privacy proposal: Harmful to innovation?

The FCC’s newly proposed privacy protection rules requires broadband and wireless providers to obtain consumer consent before collecting and sharing their data, but some are concerned this approach is detrimental to innovation. Also in recent GRC news: The U.S. Department of Justice announced a program to incentivize self-disclosure of foreign bribery violations, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission called for hundreds more employees.

WSJ: FCC’s proposed consumer privacy rules could stifle innovation

Late last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a new set of privacy regulations outlining how Internet service providers (ISPs) collect, use and share consumer data. With these rules, the FCC will take over the majority of the consumer protection enforcement formerly the domain of the Federal Trade Commission — a change that is part of the new net neutrality rules passed last year that reclassified ISPs as common carriers.

Under the rules that specifically target broadband companies, in the majority of situations consumers would need to “opt in,” or give consent to, a cable company seeking to sell their data to third parties. The proposed rules would also require wireless and broadband companies to communicate with consumers about how that data is being collected, used and shared.

But according to a Wall Street Journal opinion column, this approach will be detrimental to innovation because it restricts almost all uses of consumer preferences instead of punishing particular cases of unfair practices. Furthermore, the new rules exclude Google and Amazon, two companies whose business models profit greatly from data collection, according to the WSJ. These tech giants were deemed “edge providers” that are too big to regulate. Instead, they will continue to be monitored by the FTC.

Companies approach U.S. FCPA discount program with caution

The U.S. Justice Department rolled out a one-year pilot program that provides companies who self-disclose foreign corruption violations a discount of up to 50% on the associated sanctions. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said that the program aims to encourage companies to self-report Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations and build up the DOJ’s ability to deliver enforcement actions against individual offenders.

U.S. Department of Justice (source: Wikipedia)

Reductions in sanctions will also be offered to companies who report all known facts and remediate “bad actions” that are outlined by the program.

While the program has garnered praise from experts in the space, they told WSJ that it’s also being viewed cautiously by companies. Companies are reluctant to participate in the pilot program because it does not set a minimum discount, and the amount of the reduction is totally under the discretion of the DOJ. The program also does not lay out what levels of lenient treatment from the DOJ correspond with specific types of cooperation. This lack of guidance could offset any incentives to report of FCPA violations, said Eric Bruce of the Kobre & Kim law firm.

“The steps articulated by DOJ in order to receive ‘full cooperation credit’ are still fairly subjective and subject to varying interpretations,” he told WSJ.

U.S. SEC Chair calls for additional funding and 250 more staffers

Mary Jo White, chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said the regulatory agency needs additional funding to hire 250 additional staffers to strengthen its oversight of today’s marketplaces and better protect investors. White said the additional staffers would also boost the SEC’s IT infrastructure and improve the cybersecurity and risk analyses of areas such as exchange-traded funds.

“Additional funding is imperative if we are to continue the agency’s progress in fulfilling its responsibilities over our increasingly fast, complex, and growing markets,” White said during a budget hearing before the Financial Security Oversight Committee at the Treasury Department on April 12.