Yesterday President Obama signed into law a bill that would reauthorize the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to clamp down on cross-border fraud, providing greater assurances for US customers and business who want to shop, transact and earn a living on the Internet. The measure was spearheaded by Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), who is retiring. The bill, the U.S. Safe Web Act, allows the FTC to share information about cross-border online fraud with foreign law enforcement authorities and cooperate with them in tracking down and eliminating Internet scam artists.
At a time when many lament that partisan gridlock seems to prevent the enactment of good public policy, this bi-partisan reaffirmation of the FTC’s authority to go after cross-border crooks is a welcome sign that our policymaking institutions can still produce sensible policies that protect the public.
This law was first adopted in 2006 and has been an effective tool to combat cross-border spam, spyware and fraud. Fraudsters do not recognize national borders, and law enforcement efforts must be similarly global. Effective international cooperation on law enforcement investigations is crucial for providing consumers and businesses with the trust and confidence with each other online.
Hugh Stevenson, Deputy Director for International Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission, has been leading FTC efforts to use the authority in this law to combat Internet scams, fraudulent telemarketing, spam, spyware, and other cross-border misconduct that harms US consumers. In his testimony in front of the Energy and Commerce Committee in July, he made it clear that reauthorization was needed to allow the FTC “to continue its current cross-border enforcement efforts and deal with new threats to U.S. consumers emanating from a growing number of jurisdictions.”
The Congress agreed and the legislation received bi-partisan support all the way through the process. The House approved the measure by voice vote on September 11 and the Senate followed suit and passed the measure on November 14. The President signed it on December 4.
Mark MacCarthy, Vice President, Public Policy at SIIA, directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing and the promotion of educational technology.