• On April 13, 2011, Maneesha Mithal, Director of the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, testified before the Subcommittee on Social Security of the House Committee on Ways and Means and recommended that Congress develop identity theft legislation that makes social security numbers (SSNs) more difficult to access. Specifically, he recommended (1) establishing national consumer authentication standards to verify that consumers are who they purport to be, (2) creating national standards to reduce the public display and transmission of SSNs, (3) adopting national data-security standards for storing consumer information, and (4) requiring that organizations notify affected consumers when their data has been breached. He also noted that, since 2001, the FTC has brought 32 actions against businesses that failed to reasonably protect sensitive consumer information, including SSNs, from exposure to identity thieves. A copy of Mr. Mithal’s testimony can be found here.
  • On March 21, 2011, during a speech before the Newspaper Association of America, Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, offered insight into how the Antitrust Division analyzes potential newspaper mergers and acquisitions. Noting that she does not support additional exemptions for newspapers from antitrust laws, Ms. Varney commented that immunity from the law leads to “higher prices, reduced output, lower quality, and reduced innovation.” Ms. Varney expressed, however, a willingness to consider whether changes in technology and consumer preferences should alter the way the Division defines the relevant market for analyzing such mergers. However, Ms. Varney also explained that the Division will not attempt to force competition where it is not possible, such as in regions where the business case for competing newspapers no longer exists. A copy of the speech can be found here.
  • The FTC will host a forum on May 11, 2011, in Washington, DC to examine how the government, businesses, and consumer protection organizations can work together to prevent consumers from receiving unauthorized third-party charges on their phone bills — a practice known as “cramming”. The forum, which will be held at the FTC’s satellite building conference center, will be open to the public. The FTC invites interested parties to submit comments on cramming prevention through the FTC’s online comment form no later than April 27, 2011. The FTC’s Press Release on the Cramming Forum can be found here. Comments can be submitted to the FTC here.