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GSA announces public auction for former FAA tower site in Lower Salem, Ohio

GSA news releases - Tue, 10/12/2021 - 12:00am
Oct. 12, 2021                                                      CHICAGO – The U.S. General Services Administration is auctioning a former Federal Aviation Administration tower site in Lower Salem, Ohio, as part of its mission to deliver value and savings in real estate, acquisition,...

Following Two Weeks of Hearings, Sen. Cantwell Calls on Facebook to Preserve Data, Documents Related to Testimony the Company Misled Public, Put Profits over Safety of Users

For Immediate Release    
Tuesday, October 12, 2021


Contact:

[email protected]

 

Following Two Weeks of Hearings, Sen. Cantwell Calls on Facebook to Preserve Data, Documents Related to Testimony the Company Misled Public, Put Profits over Safety of Users

 

Senator vows to strengthen federal oversight and enforcement to protect consumers from digital harms

 

SEATTLE, WA – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to preserve all documents, data, and electronic information related to testimony that the company misled the public about the harmful impact of its platforms on teenagers and children, and in spreading hate and divisive content.

 

“Mr. Zuckerberg, you have acknowledged before our Committee that Facebook has a responsibility to ensure that people who use your products can do so safely,” Sen. Cantwell wrote in a letter to the CEO. “Given the importance of these issues, I urge Facebook to take these concerns seriously.  This Committee will continue its oversight and work to pursue legislation to protect consumers’ privacy, improve data security, and strengthen federal enforcement to address the digital harms that are the subject of these hearings.”

 

During a hearing before a Commerce subcommittee, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified that the company’s own research recognizes the role its platforms play in spreading hate and divisive content in the United States and abroad, “eroding individual privacy interests, undermining the mental health of vulnerable teenagers and children, and promoting ethnic violence, among other troubling impacts,” noted Sen. Cantwell. “The testimony… raises significant concerns about whether Facebook has misled the public, Federal regulators, and this Committee.”

 

The Senator underscored the dangerous consequences of unchecked spreading of divisive, violent content on Facebook’s platforms, pointing to its role in fomenting ethnic violence against the Rohingya in 2018.  She described many attempts made by a constituent and her own staff to warn the company to take action.  

 

“She pleaded with your company to shut down the offending accounts,” Sen. Cantwell wrote regarding efforts by the constituent who asked the Senator’s office for help. “[M]y staff contacted Facebook’s government affairs division… and, notwithstanding our persistent efforts, we were similarly frustrated by Facebook’s lack of responsiveness and failure to take effective action. Last month, my Senate staff again reached out to Facebook, yet these posts continue.”

 

She added: “Against that backdrop, Ms. Haugen’s testimony that Facebook’s algorithms incentivize angry and divisive content on its platforms is chilling.” 

 

Sen. Cantwell requested that Facebook Inc. preserve and retain the following documents, data, memoranda, records, and other electronically stored information: (1) the internal Facebook research that is the subject of Ms. Haugen’s testimony, and the documents that reflect Facebook’s evaluation and use of such research; (2) ranking or composition systems, including content recommendation systems; (3) experiments or recommendations to change those ranking or composition systems; (4) the use of, and internal decisions regarding, Facebook platforms in settings where there is ethnic violence, including in Myanmar and Ethiopia, and Facebook’s role or response; (5) the impact of Facebook’s platforms on children and teenagers under the age of 18; and (6) Facebook’s targeted efforts to market its platforms to children, teenagers and parents.

 

A copy of the letter is below and here (link)

October 12, 2021

Mr. Mark Zuckerberg

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Facebook, Inc.

1601 Willow Road

Menlo Park, CA  94025

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

The United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation heard testimony last week from Ms. Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee and whistleblower, who testified about concerning practices at Facebook.  Ms. Haugen’s testimony followed Facebook’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis’ testimony at our September 30 hearing regarding the impact of Instagram and Facebook’s other platforms on users’ privacy interests and safety.  Ms. Haugen provided information regarding internal Facebook research, documents, and deliberations, and testified that Facebook’s own research recognizes the role its platforms play in spreading hate and divisive content in the United States and abroad, eroding individual privacy interests, undermining the mental health of vulnerable teenagers and children, and promoting ethnic violence, among other troubling impacts.  Ms. Haugen asserted that Facebook has misled the public about the impact of its platforms, and the degree to which Facebook’s decisions encourage and exploit divisive content to drive higher profits.  The testimony at these two hearings raises significant concerns about whether Facebook has misled the public, Federal regulators, and this Committee.

The potential danger that social media platforms pose for spreading divisive content was demonstrated, with horrifying consequences, by the role the Facebook platform played in fomenting ethnic violence against the Rohingya.  See Reuters, Hatebook:  Inside Facebook’s Myanmar Operation (2018).  Thousands of Burmese refugees currently live in Washington state.  In April 2018, one of my constituents contacted me about her ongoing efforts over several years to alert Facebook to the widespread use of its platform to post hate speech and grisly images that were instigating violence, destabilizing the political environment in Myanmar, and driving ethnic violence on a broad scale.  She pleaded with your company to shut down the offending accounts. Over the course of her efforts, Facebook remained unresponsive to her and failed to take action in response to her communications.

Working with that same constituent, my staff contacted Facebook’s government affairs division on June 11, 2018 and, notwithstanding our persistent efforts, we were similarly frustrated by Facebook’s lack of responsiveness and failure to take effective action.  I raised these concerns when I met with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, on May 17, 2019, and she assured me that Facebook had subsequently instituted a number of safeguards to limit the proliferation of divisive content on its platforms. 

Despite these assurances, my constituent continues to alert Facebook that individuals who had been posting divisive content during the worst of the violence against the Rohingya, such as a Myanmar military lieutenant, are still posting such content on Facebook.  Last month, my Senate staff again reached out to Facebook, yet these posts continue. 

The role of Facebook’s platform in the Rohingya tragedy illustrates the horrible consequences that failing to effectively limit the spread of divisive content on social media platforms can have in inflicting public harm.  Against that backdrop, Ms. Haugen’s testimony that Facebook’s algorithms incentivize angry and divisive content on its platforms is chilling.  More specifically, Ms. Haugen testified that Facebook made algorithmic changes in 2018 to maximize “meaningful social interactions” on its platforms, and its research showed that those changes actually accelerate and expand the spread of angry and divisive content on its platforms.  Ms. Haugen further testified that, in the face of that research, Facebook declined to make the necessary adjustments, which would have reduced profitability, to fix this problem.  Ms. Haugen’s testimony, if true, raises serious concerns about the motivations that drive Facebook’s decisions, policies and use of its internal research, and their widespread impacts on Facebook users worldwide.

Ms. Haugen also shared information regarding internal Facebook practices, including a practice of silencing employees who ask the “wrong” questions by deleting data and dismissing employees. This is deeply troubling and, if true, raises serious concerns that further erode the public’s trust in Facebook.

Ms. Davis testified that Facebook wants to be more transparent and is considering how it can allow external researchers to have more access to Facebook’s data.  To that end, I request that Facebook, Inc. preserve and retain documents, data, memoranda, records, and other electronically stored information relating to the issues raised at the September 30 and October 5 hearings, including: (1) the internal Facebook research that is the subject of Ms. Haugen’s testimony, and the documents that reflect Facebook’s evaluation and use of such research; (2) ranking or composition systems, including content recommendation systems; (3) experiments or recommendations to change those ranking or composition systems; (4) the use of, and internal decisions regarding, Facebook platforms in settings where there is ethnic violence, including in Myanmar and Ethiopia, and Facebook’s role or response; (5) the impact of Facebook’s platforms on children and teenagers under the age of 18; and (6) Facebook’s targeted efforts to market its platforms to children, teenagers and parents.

Mr. Zuckerberg, you have acknowledged before our Committee that Facebook has a responsibility to ensure that people who use your products can do so safely.  Given the importance of these issues, I urge Facebook to take these concerns seriously. This Committee will continue its oversight and work to pursue legislation to protect consumers’ privacy, improve data security, and strengthen federal enforcement to address the digital harms that are the subject of these hearings.

 

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GSA Supports Strategic Initiatives to Bolster Small Business Opportunities in Government

GSA news releases - Fri, 10/08/2021 - 12:00am
  WASHINGTON -- During September, the U.S. General Services Administration’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) marked Small Business Week by showcasing opportunities for small businesses to engage in the federal marketplace. Last week, GSA’s OSDBU also hosted “Small...

State of Telehealth: Removing Barriers to Access and Improving Patient Outcomes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), the Chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, will convene a hearing titled “State of Telehealth: Removing Barriers to Access and Improving Patient Outcomes” at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 7, 2021. The hearing will examine the importance of access to telehealth services, the utilization and changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the critical role of access to broadband in the public health response, and how to structure future deployment and policy to address the needs of underserved communities. 

 

 Witnesses:

  • Sterling N. Ransone, Jr., MD, FAAFP, President, American Academy of Family Physicians
  • Sanjeev Arora, MD, MACP, FACG, Founder, Project ECHO; Distinguished Professor of Medicine, University of New Mexico
  • Deanna Larson, President, Avel eCARE
  • The Honorable Brendan Carr, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

 

 Details: 

 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

10:00 a.m. EDT

Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

 

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GSA Publishes Climate Change Risk Management Plan Describing Steps to Make Operations and Assets Climate-Ready

GSA news releases - Thu, 10/07/2021 - 12:00am
  WASHINGTON — The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) published its Climate Change Risk Management Plan today, in conjunction with 20 other agencies, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. It is one step toward the whole-of-government approach to confronting the climate...

Enhancing Data Security

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a full committee hearing titled “Enhancing Data Security” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 6, 2021.  This hearing is the second in a series examining the growing urgency to protect consumer privacy and safeguard our data, as well as the need to ensure the Federal Trade Commission is equipped with the authorities and resources to fight digital harms and hold bad actors accountable for increasing privacy violations, data breaches, internet scams, ransomware assaults and other harmful data abuses.

 

Details: 

 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

10:00 a.m. EDT

Full Committee (hybrid)

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

 

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Cantwell Says Action Needed to Stem Tide of ID Theft, Ransomware, and Security Breaches

US on track for record number of data breaches in 2021

 

Cantwell: “We know that a stronger FTC will help, but we need to give the FTC the resources that they need to do their job.”

 

Former FTC leaders, experts in ID theft, cybersecurity say it’s key for the FTC to have first time civil penalty authority

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.  –  In the second in a series of hearings on the urgent need to protect consumer privacy and data security, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, reiterated her call to create a data security and privacy enforcement bureau at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). She has also called on Congress to ensure it is equipped with the resources, first time civil penalty authority, and clear digital security standards needed to stem the tide of data breaches, identity theft and ransomware assaults that are harming millions of Americans. 

 

“Earlier this year, a hacker took Colonial Pipeline offline, causing fuel shortages across the East Coast,” said Senator Cantwell. “Ransomware attacks on hospitals have put patients’ lives at risk. We heard yesterday about Facebook going offline globally due to faulty configuration. There's word out this morning that Amazon may be facing its own situation today. So part of the problem is that we live in a more connected world. And what we know now is that when there is a data breach that consumers are the ones that pay the heavy price.”

 

Cantwell spoke about the devastating impact of data breaches in Washington state, pointing out that the Washington State Auditor’s Office, which had obtained claim forms in a review of the incident, “had been receiving unemployment fraud claims had its data compromised due to that vulnerability in the legacy system that was provided by a third party. Accellion systems were breached throughout the country, and we still don't know the extent of that breach. But in Washington, the personal information of 1.6 million residents was stolen.”

 

“…We know that the identity theft can have a devastating impact on individuals who can't obtain unemployment benefits because a criminal has already applied for them,” Senator Cantwell said.  “40% of these victims were not able to pay their bills. 14% were evicted for not paying rent, 33% did not have enough money for food and utilities, 13% were not able to get a job. So while most identity theft victims lose less than $500, 21% of these victims report losing more than $20,000.”

 

During questioning of experts, Sen. Cantwell asked each witness if they “support an FTC Privacy and Data Security Bureau.” All four expert witnesses agreed, including James E. Lee, Chief Operating Officer, Identity Theft Resource Center; Jessica Rich, of Counsel at Kelley Drye and Former Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); Edward W. Felten, Robert E. Kahn Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs at Princeton University and Former Chief Technologist at the FTC; and Kate Tummarello, Executive Director of Engine.

 

“Do you support first time penalties?” Cantwell followed.  Again, all four witnesses agreed. 

 

Video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement can be found HERE, the first round of Q&A with the witnesses is HERE, the second round HERE, and the final round and closing remarks HERE.

 

The full transcript can be found HERE.

 

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Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security will convene a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower” at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 5, 2021.  Recent Wall Street Journal investigations have revealed troubling insights regarding how Instagram affects teenagers, how it handles children onto the platform, and other consumer protection matters related to Facebook. The hearing will provide an opportunity for a Facebook whistleblower to discuss their perspective and experience with the Subcommittee, including how to update children’s privacy regulations and other laws to protect consumers online.

 

Details: 

 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

10:00 a.m. EDT

Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security Hearing

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

 

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Chicago federal building receives Modernism in America Award

GSA news releases - Tue, 10/05/2021 - 12:00am
CHICAGO – The renovation project for the Chicago Federal Plaza U.S. Post Office won a 2021 Modernism in America Civic/Institutional Design Award of Excellence from Docomomo US.  The Loop Station Post Office, a steel frame structure built in 1973 and located at 211 South Clark Street in Chicago,...

Wicker Expresses Concern About TikTok’s Involvement in U.S. Cyber Games

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today sent a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo expressing concern about the role TikTok will play in the first ever U.S. Cyber Games, an initiative receiving funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The U.S. Cyber Games represent an important initiative led by the private sector to promote cybersecurity careers, build a diverse and skilled cybersecurity workforce, and help to drive research on effective practices for cybersecurity workforce development.  

“Allowing TikTok to play any role in the first U.S. Cyber Games, including joining its board alongside U.S. federal officials, is unacceptable. TikTok should be given no opportunity to interfere in any of the nation’s cyber initiatives, let alone those carried out with financial support from American taxpayers,” Wicker wrote.

TikTok is a founding sponsor of the Games and will serve on its Advisory Board alongside personnel from U.S. defense and intelligence agencies. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken an ownership stake in a key subsidiary of the parent company of TikTok. Given China’s relentless efforts to undermine America’s cybersecurity, it raises grave concerns that a company with ties to the CCP would play any role in helping to build the next generation of U.S. cyber professionals. In addition to its CCP ties, a recent Wall Street Journal investigation raised serious questions about how TikTok’s technology can expose minors to harmful content.     

Click here to read the full letter below.

Dear Secretary Raimondo:

I am concerned to learn about the involvement of TikTok in the inaugural U.S. Cyber Games, an initiative led by a private company in cooperation with the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) program at NIST. The U.S. Cyber Games represent an important initiative led by the private sector to promote cybersecurity careers, build a diverse and skilled cybersecurity workforce, and help to drive research on effective practices for cybersecurity workforce development.  

This August, TikTok announced that it would be the founding sponsor of the games and that its Chief Security Officer would be joining the U.S. Cyber Games Advisory Board alongside members from NIST, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and other U.S. leaders in cybersecurity.

In April of this year, the CCP took an ownership stake and one of three board seats in Beijing-headquartered ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok. We should not underestimate the dangerous influence or potential involvement the CCP has in the company. The CCP has repeatedly demonstrated its desire to exploit vulnerabilities in cyberspace and compromise America’s economic and national security. As one example, the Department of Justice recently indicted four Chinese nationals and residents who conspired with Chinese state security to hack into and steal data from U.S. companies, universities, and government entities.  

Allowing TikTok to play any role in the first U.S. Cyber Games, including joining its board alongside U.S. federal officials, is unacceptable. TikTok should be given no opportunity to interfere in any of the nation’s cyber initiatives, let alone those carried out with financial support from American taxpayers. Even though NIST is named as a “Founding Partner” of the games, it is my understanding that the private company leading the games is the entity responsible for involving TikTok. However, I would have expected NIST to exercise greater judgment and oversight over its awardees concerning which entities they pursue and with whom they form direct relationships.

I urge you to take action toward ensuring that NIST and its partners are fully aligned and held accountable in keeping our nation secure. 

I appreciate your attention to this critical matter and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Administrator Carnahan Calls Women Technologists to Public Service During Grace Hopper Keynote

GSA news releases - Fri, 10/01/2021 - 12:00am
  During Remarks at Grace Hopper Conference, Carnahan Highlights Opportunities for Technologists in Government WASHINGTON -- During a keynote address to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing on September 30th, U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Robin Carnahan...

Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms

WASHINGTON, D.C. —U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security will convene a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms” at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 30, 2021.  Children and teens face immense peer pressure and social expectations to broadcast their lives online. Recent Wall Street Journal investigations have revealed troubling insights regarding what Facebook knows about how Instagram affects young users, including their mental health. This hearing will cover Facebook’s research into the impact of its apps on young audiences, its actions to address threats to these users, and policy considerations to safeguard kids online.

 

Witnesses: 

 

  • Antigone Davis, Director, Global Head of Safety, Facebook

 

Details: 

 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

10:30 a.m.  EDT

Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security Hearing

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

 

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GSA Announces New Headquarters for the Securities and Exchange Commission

GSA news releases - Thu, 09/30/2021 - 12:00am
  This lease marks the latest milestone to meet SEC’s current and future needs WASHINGTON DC - Today, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced that it has awarded a lease for a new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) headquarters building in Washington, D.C. The lease...

Technology Modernization Board Awards Projects to Bolster Nation’s Cyber Defenses, Address Urgent IT Modernization Challenges

GSA news releases - Thu, 09/30/2021 - 12:00am
  Awards represent first tranche of Technology Modernization Fund projects funded by American Rescue Plan WASHINGTON — Today, the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) Board announced seven new awards (six public and one classified) for federal agencies to invest in zero trust networking and...

TODAY: At Hearing With Facebook Safety Head, Cantwell Says Children Need Stronger Protection from Digital Abuse, Harm

 

YESTERDAY: Cantwell Push to Create Stronger, Sharper, Tougher Consumer Protection Watchdog Gets Backing From Former Federal Enforcement Officials

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  U.S. Senator Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today underscored the urgent need to strengthen federal digital protections for children during a subcommittee hearing in response to revelations that Facebook and Instagram were aware of the harmful impact its products have on children and teenagers. Today’s comments follow a hearing Sen. Cantwell chaired yesterday regarding her push to create a privacy and data security enforcement bureau at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and invest significant federal resources to ensure it is equipped with the authorities and resources to fight digital harms and hold bad actors accountable for privacy violations, deception, data breaches, internet scams, ransomware assaults and other data abuses.

 

“Data collection of children… should have more aggressive attention… and we need to update the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act,” Sen. Cantwell said at today’s subcommittee hearing.  “I think it's very important to understand that our committee would like to move forward on stronger privacy legislation.”

 

At Sen. Cantwell’s full committee hearing yesterday, senators heard directly from former FTC officials who recounted how the severe lack of resources, technology and staffing expertise has left the agency unable to keep pace with the growing wave of privacy and data abuses. Sen. Cantwell pushed to for $1 billion in federal funding as part of the Build Back Better bill to create a robust privacy and data security enforcement bureau at the FTC and called for a bureau in her 2019 privacy legislation.

 

“Our precise locations, fitness regimens, computer strokes, and even our friends and family networks have basically been turned into commodities,” Sen. Cantwell said, explaining that while a digital economy has created new services and products, “it also exposed and threatened consumer privacy by unnecessarily collecting, storing, selling, and exposing consumers’ most personal data to theft and harm.”

 

“[F]rom July 2019 through July 2020, more than 650,000 residents of my state, Washington, were victims of data breaches, including the release of their healthcare information, banking records, social security numbers, and credit card information,” Cantwell continued. “The truth is that our economy has changed significantly and the Federal Trade Commission has neither the adequate resources, nor the technological expertise at the FTC to adequately protect consumers from harm.”

 

“Even where the FTC has taken enforcement actions against companies, the companies continue to violate those FTC orders, which is beyond frustrating,” Sen. Cantwell added. “Even though the FTC has been able to use their current authority of unfair and deceptive practices, companies like Facebook or others may gladly pay a $5 billion fine, when actually, they can still make over $70 billion a year from some of these same practices.”

 

 

 

CLICK HERE TO WATCH SEN. CANTWELL OPENING REMARKS AND HERE FOR FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

Asked by Cantwell if they “support more resources at the FTC, “similar to what we've been talking about as it relates to this reconciliation item on the FTC having more of a privacy enforcement authority,” all four witnesses agreed, including David Vladeck, former Director of the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection and current Faculty Director at the Center on Privacy and Technology, Georgetown Law; Maureen Ohlhausen, former Acting Chair of the Federal Trade Commission and current Partner and Section Chair, Baker Botts; Ashkan Soltani, former Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission and current Independent Researcher and Technologist; and Trade Morgan Reed, President of the App Association.

 

 

CLICK HERE TO WATCH CANTWELL EXCHANGE WITH WITNESSES

 

Vladeck described the impact Cantwell’s proposal to boost resources by $1 billion would have on the FTC’s enforcement capacity:  “One area in which [the FTC needs] resources is being able to hire more technologists and engineers. I don't think the FTC has ever had a cohort as many as 10 technologists on staff.   When it comes to enforcement, oversight of existing consent decrees, there is a division within the Bureau of Consumer Protection that has about 45 staff members, and oversees more than 1,000 ongoing consent orders, or litigated orders imposed by a court. The volume of orders that need to be sorted, reviewed and subject to reporting requirements overwhelms the ability of staff to do the kind of surveillance of a company under orders is required,” he said.

 

“Take a look at Facebook, it was the one of the first real major privacy orders we engaged in. We did not have technologists and staff who could spend time reviewing closely what the company was doing,” Vladeck continued. “And that's an endemic problem. And it's going to be an enduring problem unless Congress devotes more resources to the FTC.”

“[T]he FTC is critically under-resourced to oversee the nation's myriad of privacy and cybersecurity issues,” Soltani testified.  “With a bare bones staff of about 40 attorneys and a handful of technologists, their resources pale in contrast to their counterparts in other countries. The resource problem is exasperated when businesses choose to litigate a case rather than accept a settlement The proposal to create a fund and new bureau at the FTC is a strong step forward at providing the commission with new resources it needs desperately to effectively protect consumers in the digital economy. A new bureau focused on technology and data protection would help the FTC support its mission of placing unfair and deceptive trade practices related to privacy, data security, identity theft, and data abuses.”

Video of the all witness testimonies is available HERE, audio is available HERE.

 

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Wicker in Washington Examiner: FTC must leave privacy legislating to Congress

Consumer data powers today’s digital economy. Data is the coveted resource that is fueling explosive growth across multiple sectors, yielding exciting new innovations in areas as diverse as artificial intelligence, medical diagnostics, and automated vehicles. People have also experienced the practical benefits of data during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more individuals are relying on internet-based technologies to connect to work, school, healthcare, and their loved ones.

Despite these tremendous benefits, the ubiquity of data has also raised privacy concerns. Consumers want to know what personal information is being collected about them, and they want some say in how it is aggregated, used, and shared. On the industry side, businesses need a clear set of rules that will not slow the development of promising technologies. Congress has been working hard to develop a long-term legislative framework that addresses the needs of both consumers and innovators.

Some European countries have already begun adopting new privacy laws, as have certain U.S. states. Although the desire for these laws is understandable, a patchwork of state privacy laws is unworkable, as data moving over the internet does not recognize state boundaries. These laws have also come at a cost to industry. Expanded consumer protections have had clear impacts on investment, competition, and innovation. These trade-offs highlight the need for policymakers to balance the various interests at stake in crafting privacy policy.

In recent months, some have proposed that the Federal Trade Commission take up privacy reforms unilaterally through executive rulemaking. This would be a step in the wrong direction. America needs a national consumer privacy law, but such a law must be the product of Congress.

This lone ranger approach would also be a recipe for bad policy. It is simply impossible for five commissioners at the FTC to take into account the complex privacy interests of 330 million consumers and thousands of private enterprises. Inevitably, the commissioners would favor certain business models over others, triggering massive penalties against practices they personally disfavor. These top-down dictates would also face the constant specter of reversal under a new administration, thereby failing to provide the certainty that innovators need. Only Congress can provide the durable, fine-tuned legislation that will serve America for decades to come.

Every person and business in the United States has an interest in the outcome of these deliberations. It is precisely because the stakes are so high that rules cannot be the result of an agency edict. A national law must be the product of debate and compromise among the people’s representatives, and we are committed to seeing this process through.

Once Congress determines the path forward on privacy, the FTC will be the right agency to carry out the law. The FTC’s smart and dedicated staff have been tackling these thorny questions for decades, and today the commission is the most effective privacy enforcer in the world.

All of us support legislation that would give consumers baseline protections by increasing transparency, choice, and consumer control over personal data. We want guardrails for responsible data use that will give consumers confidence for the future while securing a level playing field for innovators operating all across the country. Americans expect us to meet this defining challenge at the dawn of the digital age. We intend to work with our colleagues in Congress to get the policy right and get the job done this Congress.

This op-ed was orginally ran in Washington Examiner

Wicker Raises Concerns Over CPSC Acting Chairman’s Nullification of FY2022 Operating Plan

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today sent a letter urging Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chairman Robert Adler to adopt the Commission’s Operating Plan for Fiscal Year 2022 as amended by majority vote. This follows Acting Chairman Adler’s recent instruction to the Acting General Counsel to nullify a 2-1 vote to approve the Operating Plan.

“There is no way to interpret this action except as a brazen act of sabotage by an acting Chairman who found himself on the losing side of a vote. During my tenure as ranking member and formerly as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has oversight jurisdiction over the CPSC, I have never seen a vote by the Senate-confirmed commissioners of an independent agency nullified by an Acting General Counsel,” Wicker wrote.

“This action would be gravely troubling no matter the subject of the vote, but I am especially disappointed that it will now impact the CPSC’s ability to implement needed improvements to its operations.”

The amended Operating Plan approved on September 24 includes directives to implement recommendations made by the CPSC Inspector General in response to the 2019 data breach that was the subject of an investigation by Commerce Committee staff last Congress. The plan would add 27 new port inspectors to make up for last year’s lapses in screening for potentially dangerous products coming through U.S. ports of entry. In addition, the plan requires CPSC to turn away from a misguided effort to increase its presence on the Chinese-owned social media platform, TikTok. 

In October 2019, the Commerce Committee released a report on the CPSC’s violation of section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) and subsequent data breaches. This year Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash., ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, joined Wicker in a letter to Acting Chairman Adler regarding port inspection shortfalls. 

Click here to read the full letter.

Click here for a joint statement from CPSC Commissioners Dana Baiocco and Peter Feldman on the passage of the Operating Plan.

Protecting Consumer Privacy

WASHINGTON, D.C. —U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will convene a hearing titled “Protecting Consumer Privacy” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 29, 2021. This hearing will examine how to better safeguard consumer privacy rights, including by equipping the Federal Trade Commission with the resources it needs to protect consumer privacy through the creation of a privacy bureau; and the need for a comprehensive federal privacy law.

 

Witnesses: 

 

  • David Vladeck, Professor and Faculty Director the Center on Privacy and Technology, Georgetown Law; former Director of the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection
  • Morgan Reed, President, The App Association
  • Maureen Ohlhausen, Partner and Section Chair (Antitrust & Competition Law), Baker Botts; former Acting Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission
  • Ashkan Soltani, Independent Researcher and Technologist; former Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission

  

Details: 

 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

10:00 am EDT

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

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Wicker Urges Congress to Pass Federal Data Privacy Legislation

Click here to watch Sen. Wicker’s remarks.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today during the committee hearing on consumer data privacy expressed the importance of Congress passing a comprehensive national data privacy law.

“Since the full committee last convened on this topic over a year ago, the need for strong data privacy rules has become more urgent,” said Wicker. “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have shifted their normal activities to online. This has resulted in more consumer data and personal information flowing throughout the economy than ever before. Without a national data privacy law in place, Americans will continue to face a growing risk of having their personal data exposed and potentially exploited.” 

In the first set of questions to the panel of witnesses, Wicker referenced a Wall Street Journal article on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) consideration of a rule to strengthen online privacy protections in an effort to bypass Congress in passing legislation. Wicker asked the panel about the FTC’s role in addressing consumer privacy.   

David Vladeck, former Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, agreed that Congress is the right body to decide what the law should be.

Morgan Reed, President of ACT | The App Association, went on to explain that “preemption is the key to small business success” and that “we can’t depend on a Supreme Court decision down the road.”

Wicker then asked the panel about the inclusion of a private right of action in data privacy legislation.

“Often times a private right of action hinders innovation, consumer choice, and ends up benefiting trial lawyers rather than consumers,” said Wicker. 

FTC Former Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen shared concerns on the way a broad private right of action is used in other statutes that does not serve consumer interests and is a burden on small businesses.

Ashkan Soltani, former Chief Technologist of the FTC, believes a private right of action makes up for the concern that there is not enough enforcement capacity.

Wicker emphasized that Congress, not the FTC, is responsible for developing a comprehensive national data privacy law, and anything short of congressional action would create significant regulatory uncertainty for businesses and confuse consumers about the scope and durability of their privacy rights.

House Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash., FTC Commissioner Noah Philips, and Wicker wrote a joint op-ed, published today in the Washington Examiner, to address how much power the FTC should have over developing data protections and to urge Congress to pass legislation. They agree that a federal agency attempting to rewrite privacy law would be a blatant overreach that would almost certainly invite legal challenges.

Wicker has championed the need for a federal data privacy law while serving as the top Republican leader of the Committee. In July, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, joined Wicker in reintroducing the SAFE DATA Act, which would provide Americans with more choice and control over their data and direct businesses to be more transparent and accountable for their data practices. Wicker also led a letter with Blackburn, McMorris Rogers, and House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce Ranking Member Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., urging President Joseph Biden to prioritize comprehensive data privacy legislation as part of the Administration’s agenda. 

October 4, 2021 Close Date Announced for Online Public Auction for Former FAA Tower Site in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts

GSA news releases - Mon, 09/27/2021 - 12:00am
BOSTON – The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has set the initially anticipated close of auction date for the public auction of a former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tower site in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, as part of its mission to deliver value and savings in real estate,...

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