Navigating the Future of Privacy: An Insightful Dialogue with FTC Executive Ben Wiseman

Today, perhaps more than ever, the way companies handle personal data has become a consumer issue of critical importance. In the face of continued public and Congressional scrutiny of the commercial use of personal data and other sensitive personal information, senior Agency officials and executives are putting a spotlight on this important issue. Among those playing a key role is Ben Wiseman, the Deputy Director of the FTC’s Privacy and Identity Protection division, who recently sat down with us for an extensive Q&A on, among other topics, the FTC’s proposed new commercial surveillance rules, the data policies adopted by the connected car industry and more.

Understanding the FTC's Stance on Commercial Surveillance

Here’s what Ben Wiseman, an attorney and the acting associate director for global privacy and consumer protection in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, had to tell me about the agency’s current work to protect consumer privacy as the internet becomes an increasingly powerful piece of the US economy. What are your current efforts to help protect consumers as companies collect increasing amounts of information about them?


As head of the office of policy planning at the FTC, Ben Wiseman is charged with the creation and implementation of the new privacy policies and laws. As such, he represents a critical view into just how the agency thinks about pressing privacy concerns for digital consumers.


One of Wiseman’s many interesting observations in the course of her discourse concerns the attitude towards the gathering and use of data in relation to the connected car industry. With vehicular connectivity comes abundant data, from increased car-to-car connectivity, copious amounts of GPS information, streaming video, and a plethora of other data. Where does data end and privacy begin? What about ownership? And what constitutes ethical use not only of the data but of the car itself, if it is equipped with the capability to be self-driving? The direction in which the FTC executive points the car underscores the need to initiate clear guidelines and stipulations.

Moving Towards a More Secure Digital Future

It also brings home the point made by the FTC executive in his dialogue: that we need ‘strong rules in the commercial surveillance context’ as ‘personal data continues to be commoditised’. Strong rules will protect consumers. Strong rules will help create a more trustworthy internet.


But Wisema’s comments about the specifics of the FTC’s proposed regulations illustrate that consumer protection should be proactive, and that the executive can help reshape an environment in which privacy concerns are taken seriously when they are.

Engaging and Educating the Public

Beyond regulatory action, however, the FTC has also been working with executives such as Ben Wiseman to educate consumers about their privacy rights and best practices. This educational mission – including advertisements and public discourse – is intended to help foster empowered digital identity management on the part of consumers.


And one conversation with an executive from the FTC demonstrates the difference that policies and advocacy can make: We will never be able to stop technology. I promise you, new technologies are coming down the pike that are going to collect information about us in new ways that we have no idea about.

Towards a Future of Enhanced Data Privacy

The nerdiest ray of hope I can offer are the detailed assessments of FTC Privacy and Identity Protection executive Ben Wiseman. Moving forward, the dialogue between regulators, firms and consumers could lead to a data privacy world to rival the data utopia.

About the FTC Executive

Executives at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), such as Ben Wiseman, work at the forefront of data privacy and protection in the United States. It is their responsibility to create and enforce privacy policy as they work to educate both consumers and business leaders about what that means. In so doing, executives at the FTC work to create a safer, more transparent digital future for everyone.

The privacy and identity work of FTC executives signals their commitment to protecting individuals’ rights in the digital era. Their watchfulness offers an ongoing foundation for developing and enforcing the rules that protect consumers from the dangers of commercial surveillance and misuse of their data. The institutional memory of the FTC executives’ work provides an important foundation for building both law and practice to support consumers’ privacy and security in the digital future.

Jun 03, 2024
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