Report: Leibowitz Next FTC Chair
If so, online ad companies should expect continued scrutiny in Washington. In the last few years, Leibowitz has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of some online ad practices. Among other issues, he has cast a sharp eye on behavioral targeting -- though, as of today, he doesn't appear to support new laws regulating the industry.
But two weeks ago, when the FTC unveiled its suggested self-regulatory privacy guidelines, Leibowitz wrote separately to take the industry to task for prior practices. "Despite a spotlight on e-commerce and online behavioral marketing for more than a decade, to date data security has been too lax, privacy policies too incomprehensible, and consumer tools for opting out of targeted advertising too confounding," he wrote. "Industry needs to do a better job of meaningful, rigorous self-regulation or it will certainly invite legislation by Congress and a more regulatory approach by our Commission. Put simply, this could be the last clear chance to show that self-regulation can -- and will -- effectively protect consumers' privacy in a dynamic online marketplace."
Three years ago, when bad adware installations were viewed as an urgent problem, he proposed publicly naming companies that used adware in Web marketing. While Leibowitz wasn't exactly out on a limb in criticizing the practices of adware companies, few other regulators were openly discussing marketers' responsiblity for the problem.
Jeff Chester, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Center for Digital Democracy, said Leibowitz's appointment would "help transform what has been a largely anemic regulatory watchdog during the Bush years into an agency that sees its first priority as consumer protection."
He added: "Public interest groups such as mine appreciate that Leibowitz has called for tougher online privacy safeguards, and that his door has always been open."