FTC’s new technology office will help mop up ‘oozing snake oil’ tech • TechCrunch

FTC’s new technology office will help mop up ‘oozing snake oil’ tech • TechCrunch

FTC's new technology office will help mop up 'oozing snake oil' tech • TechCrunch

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The FTC is embracing change with the creation of an Office of Technology (OT) that will help it effectively regulate the rapidly changing world of technology. Citing “systemic concerns” related to the technology and its potential for fraud and abuse, the FTC’s new division will ensure the agency is not left behind by tech-savvy scammers.


Because the FTC is a large agency, it is somewhat of a generalist, and when a case requires specialized knowledge, it can bring in outside experts. Surely you want some financial goodies, but do you need a full-time employee just for, say, logging regulations? Probably not, but at some point an issue or an industry may become significant enough to warrant a serious and ongoing commitment of resources.

Such is the case depicted today with the problems in the world of technology, against which, of course, FTC Chairman Lina Khan has personally railed. Whether it’s antitrust or consumer protection, or simply telling influencers they need to declare the post is sponsored, the tech world is a vast and diverse setting for bad behavior and regulation. .

The OT announcement came back to the agency’s CTO, Stephanie Nguyen. Providing as historical context the response to fraudulent advertisements spreading with unprecedented speed on the radio when it was new, she says that while the challenges of technology are new, the “systemic concerns” they present are familiar:

The common thread is that certain technologies may cause substantial harm to consumers, are misleading or may adversely affect the conditions of competition. From the rise of the surveillance economy, to the widespread application of artificial intelligence by companies, to business models that use technology to disrupt markets, the evolving pace and volume of change Technology means more FTC issues require team members with technology expertise.

The Office of Technology’s top priority is to work with staff and leaders across the agency to strengthen and support the agency in law enforcement investigations and contentious cases. This could mean dissecting claims made about an AI-powered product to assess whether the offer is brimming with snake oil, or whether automated decision systems for teacher evaluations are negatively impacting decisions. of employment and make deductions that impact compensation and tenure. We’ll also be keeping a finger on the pulse of business model change, such as changes in digital advertising ecosystems, to help the FTC understand the privacy, competition, and consumer protection implications. We work with lawyers and data scientists to decipher the collection and sale of location data and how that data can harm consumers, and to understand the opaque algorithms that make decisions affecting millions of consumers.

Naming each of these potential offenders tells these companies to be careful. It might be trendy to say your HR productivity tool is powered by AI, but if you can’t prove it’s safe and effective, the FTC might soon be knocking on your (virtual) door.

To be clear, it’s not like the FTC has just let tech run wild over the past decade. In fact, there are already several technology-focused departments, such as the Privacy and Identity Division. But it must have been clear enough to FTC leaders that they needed a bigger, more centralized effort to stay abreast of trends and be more proactive with guidelines and enforcement.

They’re hiring, so if you’re a tech worker thinking about getting out of the rat race and into a relatively quiet (in some ways) federal job, check it out.


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