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Ramirez Tapped as New FTC Chair

6 Mar, 2013 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – It’s a new name with the same game. That’s what some insiders are saying about President Obama’s choice of Edith Ramirez to replace the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) outgoing leader, Jon Leibowitz.

Ramirez, who joined the FTC as a commissioner in 2010, is generally considered a privacy advocate. She has supported the idea that consumers should be able to easily and permanently opt out of all online behavioral advertising. Two years ago, in written testimony for Congress, she said, “Most consumers have no idea that so much information about them can be accumulated and shared among so many companies – including, employers, retailers, advertisers, data brokers, lenders and insurance companies.”

While at the agency, she’s sided with fellow Democrats on a number of issues. For example, she joined in FTC efforts calling for do-not-track technology, and she backed the majority conclusion of a two-year antitrust probe of Google – though she did raise questions about the form in which the FTC obtained some of its concessions.

A White House official told Politico, the all-things-political news site, that Ramirez has been “instrumental in ensuring there is robust competition and innovation in the high-tech marketplace, and has worked hard to protect the most vulnerable communities.”

Top tech industry groups and consumer advocates praised Ramirez last week. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said in a statement that the new chairwoman “is a highly respected … [and] will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to her new position.”

Peter Koeppel, head of Koeppel Direct Inc., a direct response ad agency in Dallas and member of the Response Advisory Board, says he hopes the new FTC chair takes “a balanced approach that protects consumers, but at the same time does not adversely restrict the ability of marketers to target and track consumers online.”

The promotion comes amid much regulatory scrutiny of marketing companies’ on privacy issues. In the past four years, the FTC has recommended that ad companies: offer consumers a do-not-track mechanism to opt out of online behavioral marketing; tighten rules regarding data collection from children; and launch a probe of data brokers.

The FTC also has flexed enforcement actions against Google, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace for allegedly misrepresenting their policies regarding data collection or disclosure.

Politico reports some FTC watchers may be surprised that Ramirez’s fellow Democratic commissioner, Julie Brill, failed to get the president’s nod. Sources have told Politico they felt Brill worked hardest behind the scenes to seek the agency’s top post. Brill’s reputation is outspoken with a dogged approach to consumer protection.

Ramirez will have to be approved by the Senate. If that happens, an opening for a third Democratic commission member will occur. Her term is set to expire in 2015.


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