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Photos by Bloomberg; Shutterstock. Art by Mike Sullivan

Why FTC Chair Lina Khan’s Attempt to Stop Tech ‘Surveillance’ Faces Long Odds

By  |  Jan. 11, 2022 1:16 PM PST
Photo: Photos by Bloomberg; Shutterstock. Art by Mike Sullivan

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan is known as an antitrust cop who wants to break up technology conglomerates or prevent them from completing acquisitions. She also has a less-discussed, equally important goal: remaking how these companies and others collect and use data about U.S. consumers—and their own employees—in order to stop “harms that can result from commercial surveillance,” as she put it recently.

But Khan’s agency has experienced a series of delays in trying to enact new privacy rules, which it is empowered to do in the absence of federal legislation. Over the past year the FTC has delayed publicly kicking off the process at least two times, according to people familiar with the matter, showing how difficult it is to draft a set of regulations covering such a wide range of companies and business practices. Finalized rules are likely years away.

One of the holdups involved the draft of a document about the new rules the agency was preparing to publish. It contained problematic material, such as citations of undisclosed investigations the agency was handling, said people with knowledge of the situation. In addition, Khan also faces resistance from two Republican commissioners on the agency’s five-member leadership committee who want to slow her down.

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