Yesterday the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued its Fiscal Year 2020 Agency Financial Report (the “Report”) which describes the agency’s key program performance for FY 2020.  As readers of CPW already know, the FTC is an independent U.S. law enforcement agency charged with protecting consumers and enhancing competition across broad sectors of the economy.  The FTC’s primary legal authority comes from Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTCA”), which prohibits unfair or deceptive practices in the marketplace.

Because the Report highlights FTC activity aimed at protecting privacy and promoting consumer data security (with resulting impacts on data privacy litigation), CPW covers key takeaways below.  They include:

  • Classifying data privacy and cybersecurity as “agency mission challenges”: The Report states that “[i]n today’s increasingly complex economy, the FTC stands as a champion for competition and consumers.”  The Report cautions that the FTC is “prepared to respond with vigorous law enforcement” to “unfair or deceptive practices related to privacy and data security.”  The Report affirms that the “FTC will continue to prioritize . . . protecting consumer privacy and improving data security, including combating identity theft”.
  • Continuing scrutiny of unfair and deceptive practices relating to the security and privacy of consumer personal information: The Report cautions that “[t]he FTC will continue to take a leading role in efforts to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive practices related to the security and privacy of their personal information, while preserving the many benefits that technological advances offer.  The agency will stop unfair and deceptive consumer privacy and data security practices through law enforcement and will promote strong and balanced privacy and security protections through policy initiatives”.
  • Potential future focus on health apps and COPPA enforcement: The Report also highlights that the FTC this year hosted its fifth annual PrivacyCon.  The event focused on the privacy of health data collected, stored, and transmitted by mobile applications.  Going forward, the Report also provides that the FTC will bring “appropriate enforcement actions” against entities that violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) Rule.  [Note: the COPPA Rule imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, in addition to other requirements].

The future is uncertain-but at least insofar as the FTC is concerned it is clear data privacy and cybersecurity will remain top of mind going into 2021.  For more developments in this area, stay tuned-CPW will be there to keep you informed, in real-time.