Privacy’s Protectors

A Federal Trade Commission team saves the dinner hour from telemarketers.

Eileen Harrington remembers well what dinner hour was like before the Federal Trade Commission created the Do Not Call Registry. Tele-marketers were supposed to put consumers on companies' do-not-call lists if they requested it. But, Harrington recalls, "They would hang up before I could finish the sentence."

In 1999, as the FTC's associate director for marketing practices, Harrington started to review telemarketing rules. She found that her own experience was similar to that of many consumers who had complained to the agency. "There had been a dramatic increase in calls," says Harrington. And the old rules weren't protecting angry consumers.

At the time, 23 states already had passed laws creating do-not-call lists, but they weren't uniform. In some cases, consumers had to pay to be on the list. "That's when we decided that the most sensible thing to do would be to give consumers one place to go to opt out," she says.

The decision sent Harrington and her team-including Lois Greisman, Carolyn Shanoff, David Torok, Stephen Warren, Allen Hile and Lawrence Demille Wagman-caroming on a regulatory roller coaster. Initially, Congress members resisted providing start-up funds for the registry. Two federal courts put it on hold, one deciding that the FTC lacked authority to create it, the other saying that it violated telemarketers' First Amendment rights.

Each time, though, public enthusiasm pulled the FTC through. After a meeting with FTC Chairman Timothy Muris, then-House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., one of the principal skeptics in Congress, became an enthusiastic supporter. After an Oklahoma court put the registry on hold, Congress acted the next day to assure the court that the FTC had its approval. In Denver, a federal appeals court agreed to hear the First Amendment case on an expedited basis, and quickly threw out the telemarketers' claims.

Since the FTC began collecting phone numbers last year, more than 62 million consumers have signed up. Telemarketers fund the registry with fees they pay to access the list. Already, the FTC has issued steep fines to companies that called listed consumers. A January Harris poll found that 92 percent reported receiving fewer calls.

"We expected this to be a popular service," Harrington says. "We didn't know just how popular. We were stunned."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.