The Secure Times

An online forum of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law's Privacy and Information Security Committee

FTC Urges Congress to Reauthorize SAFE WEB Act

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The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade held a hearing earlier today to discuss reauthorization of the 2006 "Undertaking Spam, Spyware, And Fraud Enforcement With Enforcers beyond Borders Act", otherwise known as the U.S. SAFE WEB Act.  The subcommittee – which is chaired by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R. California) – heard testimony from Hugh Stevenson, the FTC’s Deputy Director for International Consumer Protection.

The SAFE WEB Act was enacted in response to growing evidence of cross-border spam, spyware, and fraud on the Internet.  According to FTC 2005 research, an estimated 20 percent of consumer complaints to the agency at that time involved fraud originating outside the United States.  The FTC further estimated that Americans suffered annual losses to foreign operators totaling nearly $220 million as a result of this activity.  The SAFE WEB Act expanded the FTC’s Section 5 authority to tackle this problem by including in its scope "acts or practices involving foreign commerce that (i) cause or are likely to cause reasonably foreseeable injury within the United States; or (ii) involve material conduct occurring within the United States."  The Act also gave additional powers to the FTC to work with foreign Government agencies designed to facilitate cross-border cooperation and information sharing in investigations and law enforcement actions.

According to today’s FTC testimony, the agency estimates that it has conducted more than 100 investigations, and filed more than 50 cases, involving cross-border elements since SAFE WEB’s passage.  The FTC testimony also states that using the tools provided to it under the Act, the agency has stopped frauds costing consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.  For this and other reasons, the FTC submitted in its testimony that "it is critical that Congress reauthorize the law enforcement tools provided by the U.S. SAFE WEB Act."

In her Opening Statement to the hearing, Rep. Bono Mack described SAFE WEB as an "important tool in combating cross-border fraud, spam, and spyware."  She went on to describe the progress made since 2006, as evidenced in a 2009 FTC Report issued pursuant to the Act, and concluded that SAFE WEB  "has been a clear success to date and should be reauthorized before its expiration next year."

The SAFE WEB Act will expire on December 22, 2012 absent reauthorization.  Draft legislation before the House Commerce Committee would reauthorize the Act for an additional 7 years.

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Author: Abigail Slater

Abigail Slater: Abigail Slater is a member of the New York Bar and a Solicitor in England and Wales. She is currently employed as an antitrust attorney by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in Washington D.C. Prior to the FTC, she worked in several offices of the international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. All views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the views of the FTC or any individual Commissioner.

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