The FTC collects complaints about companies that allegedly violate the data privacy, data security, advertising, and marketing laws. The result is a massive database of consumer complaints known as “Consumer Sentinel” that is used by the FTC and other consumer protection regulators to identify and investigate enforcement targets.

Regulators can use Consumer Sentinel to search for complaints on any company. They can also request that the database alert them to new complaints about an organization, or connect them with other law enforcement agencies that might have an interest in investigating the same organization. In addition to these functionalities, the FTC also creates a “Top Violator” report and a “Surge” report that track those organizations that the FTC believes may have a suspicious pattern of consumer complaints.1 The end result is that the vast majority of FTC enforcement actions target companies identified within the FTC’s database….