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WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it is considering a summer rulemaking to safeguard people against privacy abuses and “ensure that algorithmic decision-making does not result in unlawful discrimination.” The move follows months of advocacy by members of Congress, privacy-rights groups, Free Press and activists. All of these stakeholders have called on the agency to use its authority to rein in the misuse of online data and disrupt social-media companies’ discriminatory practices. 

The FTC announcement, made as part of the agency’s release of its spring regulatory agenda, proposes a public-comment period that will end in August 2022. In May, the Senate confirmed the agency’s fifth commissioner, Alvaro Bedoya, an experienced privacy advocate who has supported agency action alongside FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan and Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter.

Earlier this month, a coalition of congressional representatives and senators introduced the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, a bipartisan bill that aims to establish a comprehensive national data-privacy and data-security framework. A markup of the legislation is scheduled for Thursday.

Nora Benavidez, Free Press senior counsel and director of digital justice and civil rights, said:

“The FTC announcement is welcome news. The agency needs to establish clear rules against abusive data practices that undermine civil rights and sabotage access to opportunities. People everywhere need protections against the exploitation and discrimination caused by companies’ unfettered collection, buying, selling and outright abuse of people’s most personal information. Through an open and participatory rulemaking, the FTC can build a record of the harms and establish guardrails against discriminatory and extractive data practices that disproportionately harm people of color. 

“For years, we’ve called on Washington to protect our personal data from abuse and misuse by companies like Alphabet, Amazon and Meta. These companies manipulate and exploit data in nefarious ways that allow bad actors to spread disinformation and deprive people of access to vital information about employment, voting, housing, health care and educational opportunities. Now the FTC can move forward with a rulemaking that affirms the integrity of online spaces for all.”

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