During the American Bar Association’s Consumer Protection Conference, Acting Federal Trade Commission Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen outlined her vision for the future regarding consumer protection in the Digital Age. Her remarks indicated a new direction for the FTC which may greatly benefit small businesses.
Chairman Ohlhausen stated that she would re-focus the FTC on “bread and butter fraud enforcement.” For example, she stated, “These cases may not forge new legal ground or prompt huge headlines, but such actions defend the consumer harmed by an unscrupulous con artist and assist the legitimate business owner who loses business to the cheat….. [and that she would focus on] frauds targeting small business.” I am glad to see that the FTC will be re-positioning to help small businesses because in the Digital Age our mom and pop businesses have become an easy mark for sophisticated online fraudsters.
In regards to privacy issues and cyber security, Chairman Ohlhausen indicated she is interested in a harms based approach to privacy which is a huge hurdle to overcome in most cases. Due to a lack of transparency by companies that collect troves of personal information on users such as data brokers, adtech companies, and others in the digital ecosystem, it is generally extremely difficult if not impossible to know when you have been harmed by a data breach or data misuse. Therefore, it may become much more difficult to require the industry to become more accountable when protecting our personal information.
The bottom line is that the FTC’s enforcement focus may be very different during the next four or eight years. Therefore, it is imperative to understand how to be able to monetize this change of direction.