ACLU, 26 other groups support $1 billion boost for FTC privacy work

FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the Federal Trade Commission headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union and 26 other civil rights and advocacy groups wrote to top lawmakers Thursday to urge support for a $1 billion boost in funding for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is included in a $3.5 trillion spending proposal.

In the letter to Democratic and Republican leaders of both Houses of Congress, the groups said the money would be a boon to the "under-funded and understaffed" agency, which was created to protect consumers.

The FTC has picked up the job of pushing corporations to better protect consumer data and privacy as it enforces rules against deceptive practices.

"This increased funding for the FTC is especially important because it will enable the Commission to protect people of color and low-income communities from identity theft, fraud, scams, and exploitation. Privacy rights help prevent people from being treated unfairly based on who they are — privacy rights are civil rights," they wrote.

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee voted last week to give the FTC $1 billion to set up a bureau dedicated to improving data security and privacy and fighting identity theft, but it needs further congressional approval. The money would fund it for 10 years.

The $1 billion funding bump for the agency is included in a $3.5 trillion social spending measure, which includes free community college, universal preschool and investments in clean energy. It also proposes major tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations.

The two top Democrats in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said that they had reached a deal Thursday on how to pay for the social spending, which Democrats hope to pass without Republican help.

The Democratic-controlled House is also due to take up as early as Monday a Senate-passed $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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