How America’s tech companies could wriggle out of the nation’s consumer protection laws

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Companies such as Google and Facebook thrive on your personal data — the bits of information that tell advertisers how old you are, what brands you like and how long you lingered on that must-see cat video. Historically, how these companies use this data has been subject to oversight by the Federal Trade Commission, the government's top privacy watchdog. But a big court defeat for the FTC is putting the agency's power to protect your online privacy in jeopardy, analysts say. The ruling could wind up giving Google and Facebook, not to mention other companies in the Internet ecosystem, the ability to escape all consumer-protection actions from the FTC, and possibly from the rest of government, too, critics claim, unless Congress intervenes.

In the wake of the setback, the FTC is mulling an appeal — which would mean either asking for a rehearing at the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, or escalating to the Supreme Court, according to a person close to the agency. But unless regulators can persuade the courts to overturn Aug 29's decision, the result will be "a fatal blow" to consumer protection, said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.


How America’s tech companies could wriggle out of the nation’s consumer protection laws