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FTC explains high-tech agenda

Robert Pitofsky acknowledges that the FTC is targeting high tech sector but says its efforts are not intended to kill the industry.

Federal Trade Commission chairman Robert Pitofsky has no illusions about what many people think of the agency's efforts to regulate the high-tech industry.

On a recent trip to Japan and Korea, Pitofsky was asked repeatedly why the FTC has been aggressively targeting the high-tech industries, he told attendees of the Federalist Society convention in Washington D.C. Saturday, according to Tech Law Journal, which transcribed his speech.

In other words, Pitofsky said, people were politely asking him, "Why are you killing the golden goose that lays the egg for the United States?" and "Why are you so cheerful about it?"

The answer to such questions, he explained, are a lot more complex than the questions themselves.

The FTC is, in fact, targeting the high-tech sector, he acknowledged, but not to kill an industry that is just forming, he maintained.

High-tech takes up "an increasing proportion of the work" at the FTC, but only because "that is where the action is," Pitofsky said.

Few could argue that the high-tech sector is growing and innovating faster than just about any other industry. However, being the newest industry on the block, Pitofsky pointed out, the rules that will guide technology through its booming growth have not yet been established.

Some have suggested that a completely laissez-faire approach toward high-tech would be most appropriate, and Pitofsky seemed to agree--albeit to a degree. He said the best way to understand technology is to watch new industries as they emerge rather than rushing to take any regulatory action.

He tempered that sentiment, however, by arguing that self-regulation has as many perils as over-regulation.