WASHINGTON D.C. — Yesterday, the President nominated Republican Joe Simons to chair the Federal Trade Commission as well as Democrat Rohit Chopra and Republican Noah Phillips. Simons directed the FTC’s Bureau of Competition 2001-03, and previously directed held two other senior roles in that Bureau in the late 1980s; he is currently a Partner at Paul Weiss. Chopra served as Assistant Director and Student Loan Ombudsman between 2010 and 2015, and is currently a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Federation of America. Phillips is Chief Counsel for Sen. John Cornyn on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former litigator.
“The tech world should be paying close attention to who runs what has effectively become the Federal Technology Commission,” said TechFreedom President Berin Szóka. “With uniquely broad jurisdiction and broad discretion, the FTC regulates nearly every business in America. But it’s on tech issues that the Commission’s work is both most important and most troubling. The FTC’s case-by-case approach is generally a better way to deal with the problems created by new technologies. But unlike other areas policed by the Commission, the courts have played essentially no role in supervising how the Bureau of Consumer Protection governs privacy and data security. BCP’s ‘soft law’ of settlements and workshop reports fails to satisfy the most basic constitutional standards of providing ‘fair notice’ of what the law requires. The resulting arbitrary enforcement is unfair to businesses, and potentially fatal to tech start-ups. Even worse, it also makes consumers worse off, since companies don’t know how to comply with the law. ”
“As an antitrust expert, Simons knows what an FTC ‘common law’ should look like; his top goal should be to make consumer protection law work more like antitrust law,” continued Szóka. “Simon’s first opportunity to make BCP’s work more rigorous will be the informational injuries workshop planned for December by Acting Chairman Ohlhausen. The output from that workshop should look more like the FTC’s very thoughtful Green Guides for environmental marketing or the FTC-DOJ Antitrust Guidelines than the various aspirational privacy reports issued by the FTC since 2010. The FCC is also expected to vote in December to hand responsibility for policing broadband back over to the FTC. As the FTC takes responsibility for net neutrality, and wades into issues like algorithmic fairness, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles, the need for rethinking how the Commission works will become ever more acute. Congress has already taken up FTC process reforms for the first time since 1994, but reform will largely be up to Simons.”
We can be reached for comment at email@example.com. See our other work on the FTC, including:
- Our statement on Szóka’s Congressional testimony on FTC process reforms
- Szóka’s written testimony and prepared remarks from the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security hearing
- Our statement on the FTC’s case against LabMD
- Our TechDirt op-ed on the “Second Century Of The Federal Trade Commission”
TechFreedom is a non-profit, non-partisan technology policy think tank. We work to chart a path forward for policymakers towards a bright future where technology enhances freedom, and freedom enhances technology.