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Consumer protection, antitrust laws focus of FTC hearing at Creighton

FTC HearingIssues of consumer privacy, data security and corporate transparency weigh heavily on the minds of many Americans in today’s Big Tech economy. Perhaps none more than those tasked with enforcing the nation’s laws.

On June 12, the Creighton University School of Law hosted representatives from the Federal Trade Commission and the attorney general offices of more than a dozen states as they discussed these topics and more during the final session of the FTC’s Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.

Officials met in Creighton’s Hixson-Lied Auditorium for a series of wide-ranging panel talks, all of which focused on how best to enforce consumer protection and antitrust laws. Members of the audience – which included lawyers, law students, consumer advocates and journalists – were invited to submit questions to the expert panelists.

The hearing was the 14th and final installment of the FTC’s Hearings Initiative, which began in September 2018. Held at law schools and legal institutions across the country, the hearings aimed to determine whether new developments in business and technology necessitate changes to existing policies.

“With a dynamic environment, effective regulation requires information about practices, concerns and potential harms. These hearings invite knowledgeable panelists to participate, allowing discourse, knowledge and insights to be shared, which in turn can influence policymaking and enforcement efforts,” said Edward Morse, JD, Creighton law professor and one of the moderators of the hearing.

Before the session began, Creighton Provost Thomas Murray, PhD, welcomed the panelists to campus. The spirit of the hearings, he said, fit perfectly with the University’s core mission: “The process of learning, sharing and growing knowledge is at the heart of what we do,” Murray said. “There is much we can learn from each other through this hearing today.”

Early discussions focused on how officials at the state level can collaborate with the FTC to protect consumers and regulate technology companies. The day’s featured panelists included Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson and representatives from the attorney general offices of South Dakota, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other states.

Each panelist spent a few minutes presenting on a specific area of interest. Benjamin Wiseman, director of the office of consumer protection in the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, spoke about the need for tech companies to be transparent about the algorithms behind certain web products. In some cases, he said, evidence of racial discrimination has been found in targeted housing ads and internet-based hiring services.

An archived video of the hearing is available at ftc.gov.

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