President Obama will soon appoint Edith Ramirez as Chairman of the FTC. As most of our readers are likely aware, the FTC is charged with consumer protection and competition enforcement and has sought to enhance online and mobile privacy protection for consumers in recent years under the leadership of departing Chairman Jon Leibowitz. Ramirez has been an FTC commissioner since April 2010, and as such does not require Senate confirmation to assume the post of Chairman.
Ramirez was chosen over Julie Brill, her fellow Democrat on the Commission. Ramirez is considered by some the more moderate option, known for favoring self-regulation by companies over government regulation.
Leibowitz's departure leaves a 2-2 split on the Commission between Republican and Democratic members, which could make it difficult for the Commission to act in more contested matters until a new commissioner is appointed and confirmed. However, consumer privacy and deceptive marketing efforts tend to enjoy bipartisan support on the Commission, which should help avoid gridlock on those issues in the interim before a new appointment is made.
Prior to her appointment as an FTC commissioner, Ramirez was a partner in the LA office of Quinn Emanuel, where she focused on intellectual property, unfair competition, false advertising and antitrust matters, and she has served as the Vice President of the Board of Commissioners for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which is the largest public utility in the U.S.
It is expected that she will continue the FTC's push for greater online privacy protections for consumers and children. Ramirez voted with her Democratic colleagues to expand regulations aimed at protecting the online privacy of children and endorsed a proposal to allow Internet users to opt out of online tracking by third-party advertisers, a feature known as "Do Not Track." In addition, Ramirez joined the commission's decision, after a two-year antitrust investigation, to take no action against Google over allegations that it manipulates its search results.
President Obama and Ramirez attended Harvard Law School together, and she recently served as the President's director of Latino Outreach in California.