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Interview with Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman of Federal Trade Commission

By Steve Tsai, Managing Editor, Internet Journal

San Francisco, Feb. 9, 2007

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2007, at the RSA Conference in Mascone Center, I had an opportunity to interview Ms. Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman of FTC and co-chair of the President's ID Theft Task Force, after the town hall meeting where she gave a speech about FTC's activities in protecting consumer information. The interview took place at the VIP lounge in the Mascone Center.

IJ : Madam Chairman, thank you for taking the time to talk with me. Since the cyber criminals are operating across the globe and in many instances they are based in countries where there is no laws against these cyber crimes, what does FTC do about these cases?
Chairman Majoras: First of all, FTC does not have the authority to prosecute crimes. We only deal with civil cases. Therefore, for those criminals running botnets, it will be in the purview of the Justice Department. But we do try to hunt these people down when fraudulent activities are involved. There are still border issues. We are very pleased that at the end of the last Congress, the Congress passed legislation that gives us the increased power to work internationally. It allows us to share information with our foreign counterparts so that we can work together on investigations, try to track these people down. It is still very difficult, but it is better because at least we are not handicapped by not being able to share information. And this is a big step forward.

IJ : In your speech, you mentioned that FTC is overseeing those corporations that hold consumers personal information should have a reasonable procedure to safeguard the information. What do you do about those social networking sites such as MySpace, which have become a breeding ground to steal personal information?
Chairman Majoras: First of all, what we've done so far for social networking is that we published a lot of education materials so that the parents will understand what the kids are doing on these networks and what the dangers might be.

IJ: The kids probably know more about the computer and the Internet than their parents….
Chairman Majoras: That's right, that why we are getting the information out there so that the parents can understand and understand that it can put their computers at risk due to malware infections. Second, in the social network setting, if we find the organizations or businesses that have the ability to safeguard the consumer information but are just not taking reasonable steps, we will be interested in hearing about it and looking at it.

IJ : So you have dedicated staff to look at the cyber security?
Chairman Majoras: Yes, we have dedicated staff to look at spyware and full range of Internet privacy issues.

IJ : Since there are many agencies in the Federal government that are looking into the cyber security issues, is there an agency that is coordinating all these?
Chairman Majoras: Government agencies are established at a particular time for a particular reason and the markets change, but you can't change government agencies all the time, so we just have to work together to be effective. So for prosecuting the cyber crimes that will be the Justice Department assisted by the FBI, Homeland Security Agency, and the US Postal Services. We can't prosecute the crimes but we can find the leads. But for consumer education and consumer outreach, that's our job since we are the consumer protection agency. The Commerce Department obvious has a role in the governance of the Internet. And the Congress or the White House can give specific roles to any of these agencies.

IJ: If consumers have any complains where should they turn to?
Chairman Majoras: Certainly they can come to us at
www.ftc.gov. We have a huge database called Consumer Sentinel. We take complaints and share them with law enforcement agencies. There is another site called www.econsumers.gov that consumers can turn to as well.

IJ : Thank you very much Madam Chairman.
Chairman Majoras: You are welcome.

About The Author
Steve Tsai is the Managing Editor of the
Internet Journal http://www.intnetjournal.com. Internet Journal provides the insights and analysis on Internet marketing, eCommerce, mobile communications, eSecurity, and global e-Business. If you have any comments about Internet Journal, please send email to stt@intnetjournal.com.
 

 

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