In his July 9 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, President Biden took new steps to protect consumers’ data privacy by asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Communication Commission, and the Department of Justice to crack down on tech giants’ anticompetitive behavior. According to the White House: “Over the past  years, the largest tech platforms have acquired hundreds of companies – including alleged ‘killer acquisitions’ meant to shut down a potential competitive threat. Too often, federal agencies have not blocked, conditioned, or, in some cases, meaningfully examined these acquisitions.”
Biden’s last executive order, which he issued on May 12 took steps to enforce better cybersecurity practices for businesses and government agencies. This order focuses more heavily on the excessive and overreaching data collection practices of companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Together, the executive orders demonstrate the administration’s firm stance on protecting consumer privacy.
Organizations and businesses should expect new regulations from the FTC and DOJ, especially because the FTC’s new chair, Lina Khan, will likely cooperate with the Biden administration’s request for data privacy regulations. Khan, a legal scholar, worked on a past House antitrust investigation into Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple–and has tied consumer privacy to antitrust policy, pointing to “information exploitation” as a way that tech companies threaten consumer privacy. In practice, this could mean that the FTC will update the Fair Trade Commission Act of 1914.
And while the Biden administration is clearly concerned about protecting consumer privacy, an analysis by Scott Ferguson for Bank Info Security suggests that the president’s use of executive orders means a federal data privacy law is unlikely to pass this year.