Happy Birthday, FTC

The Federal Trade Commission turns 99 today.  Originally founded to police business and bust up monopolies, the technology-focused think tank Tech Freedom notes that in recent years the FTC has served as the government’s tech regulator.

In the past month, the FTC has started poking around Facebook’s new privacy policy (Google remembers how that tends to go) and announced plans to take a closer look at online “sponsored content” ads.  Before TV rating’s brand-name Nielsen could acquire Arbitron, the FTC forced the former to promise to continue the latter’s involvement in a research project measuring viewer engagement on multiple devices.

Just this week, the agency busted a collection agency for  sending text messages that made its crew of surly repossession agents seem like they were posing as lawyers.  The agency owes the FTC $1 million in fines now, and they’d probably better be on time with the payments.

For many technology-related issues in the coming years - from privacy to copyrights to broadband adoption - the bureaucrats at the Federal Trade Commission will be at least as important as the Federal Communications Commission or Congress - and maybe more.

This is all, quite surprisingly, exactly as then-President Woodrow Wilson predicted when he signed the agency into existence almost a century ago.


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