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The Week Ahead: FTC dives into privacy as Mobile World Congress kicks off abroad

The FTC and privacy

The Federal Trade Commission will host its third annual PrivacyCon on Feb. 28, an event that explores not only the privacy and security implications of emerging technologies, but also the economics of privacy measures. Specifically, the conference will consider how to quantify the harms that result when companies fail to secure consumer information, and how to balance the costs and benefits of privacy-protective technologies and practices.

The event will kick off with opening remarks from acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen, who has long touted the agency's role as "the primary U.S. enforcer of commercial privacy and data security obligations." At a December 2017 workshop, she noted the FTC has enforced more than 500 privacy and data security related cases, both online and off, primarily through its case-by-case enforcement authority under the FTC Act to protect consumers from deceptive or unfair acts.

The FTC's case-by-case approach to privacy enforcement is a subject that has received increasing attention in recent years, especially in the wake of the Federal Communications Commission's short-lived privacy order. That 2016 order, which was adopted by a Democrat-led commission and then quickly overturned after President Donald Trump's election, established a new framework for how broadband service providers had to treat consumer data. Depending on the sensitivity of the information being collected and shared, operators needed to obtain different types of customer consent: nonsensitive information was subject to opt-out consent, while sensitive information required opt-in consent.

The FCC order was a bit different from the FTC's privacy framework in that the FCC had a broader definition as to what constituted "sensitive" data. Also, the FTC relies less on hard rules and more on consumer expectations and company promises. Critics of the FTC privacy framework argue it does not go far enough to protect consumers, but Ohlhausen said in December 2017 that the FTC's approach is flexible enough to adapt to changes in the marketplace.

"This is especially important in the complex, fast changing technology industry and in areas such as privacy, where consumers have a wide range of evolving expectations and preferences," she said.

At PrivacyCon 2018, presentations from 20 researchers will be grouped into four sessions. The first session will cover research on collection, exfiltration (or data theft) and leakage of private information. The second session will explore consumer preferences, expectations and behaviors. The third session will feature presentations related to economics, markets and experiments. And the last session will focus on research related to tools and ratings for privacy management. The event is free and open to the public.

Mobile World Congress

Mobile World Congress, often described as the world's largest mobile technology event, begins Feb. 26 in Barcelona, Spain. The event is hosted by GSMA, which represents nearly 800 mobile operators worldwide, as well as more than 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies. The global conference aims to showcase the latest in mobile technology, including next-generation 5G technology, artificial intelligence, connected cars, virtual reality, drones and robots.

This year's keynote speakers will include executives from across the media and telecom universe. China Mobile Ltd. Chairman Shang Bing, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, Deutsche Telekom AG CEO Timotheus Höttges, Vodafone Group Plc CEO Vittorio Colao and Bharti Enterprises Ltd. founder and Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, among many others, will be among the speakers at the event.

Already, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., the Chinese mobile giant, kicked off the news frenzy associated with Mobile World Congress on Feb. 25, unveiling a chipset dubbed Huawei Balong 5G01 that promises to enable 5G speeds across a range of spectrum frequencies. Huawei plans to launch a 5G phone with the new chipset in the second half of the year. Additionally, Colao, the CEO of Britain's Vodafone, used his Feb. 26 keynote to urge telecom regulators across the globe to level the playing field between mobile operators and global tech firms, including Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.

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Congress:
Feb. 26 The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate return from recess.
Feb. 26 The House Committee on Rules will likely consider the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017.
Feb. 27 The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will convene a hearing titled "Federalism Implications of Treating States as Stakeholders." Issues such as net neutrality and 5G deployment have all raised questions around federalism.
Feb. 27 The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hold a hearing titled "The Opioid Crisis: The Role of Technology and Data in Preventing and Treating Addiction."
Feb. 28 The Senate Commerce Committee will hold an executive session to consider four FTC nominees.
Feb. 28 House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., will speak at the Connecting the Future event for a discussion on technology, the future of transportation and the SELF DRIVE Act.
FCC events
Feb. 26 The FCC's Consumer Advisory Committee will meet at 9:00 a.m. ET. The mission of the committee is to make recommendations to the commission regarding consumer issues. At its upcoming meeting, the committee is expected to consider a recommendation from its Robocalls Working Group regarding call authentication.
Feb. 28 The FCC's Disability Advisory Committee will meet at 9 a.m. ET.
Feb. 28 The FCC will hold a webinar for low-power TV and TV translator stations displaced as part of the spectrum repacking process following the broadcast incentive auction.
March 2 The 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee's informal working group for maritime, aeronautical and radar services is set to meet at 12 p.m. ET. The advisory committee is chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to provide the FCC with public views and recommendations in preparation for the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference.
Industry events
Feb. 26 - March 1 Mobile World Congress takes place in Barcelona, Spain, bringing together hundreds of mobile operators and technology companies across the globe.
Feb. 26 - 28 The 2018 Public Media Summit, discussing America's public TV stations, will take place in Washington, D.C.
Feb. 27 The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation will host an event titled "What Can Be Done to Protect Endangered Government Data?"
Feb. 27 The law firm Davis Wright Tremaine will host DOWNLOAD to help companies navigate the legal minefields that can be associated with new technologies.
Feb. 27 - 28 The National Association of Broadcasters will host its 2018 State Leadership Conference.
March 1 The Department of Transportation will host its Automated Vehicle Policy Summit, a public meeting seeking input on federal and nonfederal activities that can accelerate the safe rollout of automated vehicles.
Cybersecurity events:
Feb. 26 - 28 The CSO50 Conference and Awards will take place in Scottsdale, Ariz. The event explores how the business risk landscape is changing as technology advances and the number of connected devices increases.
Feb. 26 - March 3 SANS, the information security training provider, will host its New York City Winter 2018 event, with course topics such as cyber defense, ethical hacking, digital forensics and security management.
Feb. 28 The FTC's PrivacyCon 2018 begins at 8:15 a.m. ET.
Company events:
Feb. 26 Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. will report its earnings results.
Feb. 27 Discovery Communications Inc. and Altice USA Inc. will report their earnings results.
March 1 AMC Networks Inc. will report its earnings results.

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