Consumer Protection Chief Jessica Rich Exits FTC

Jessica Rich, head of the Federal Trade Commission's consumer protection division, will depart the agency at the end of next week.

Rich, who has worked at the FTC for 26 years, was named director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection by outgoing chairwoman Edith Ramirez in 2013. Acting FTC Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen is expected to soon name a replacement for Rich.

It's customary for bureau directors to leave when the leadership changes. Rich's predecessor, David Vladeck, left the agency in late 2012, several weeks before then-chairman Jon Leibowitz resigned.

While at the FTC, Rich led many privacy-related initiatives. Among others, she created the FTC's Office of Technology Research and Investigation, which explores matters like privacy, data security, the Internet of Things, and Big Data. Under her leadership, the agency's consumer protection bureau brought enforcement actions against well-known brands like Asus and BJ's Warehouse, as well as ad-tech businesses like Turn and InMobi.



"We weren't afraid to take some of the larger companies on -- not just in privacy, but in other areas as well," she told MediaPost on Tuesday.

In recent years, Rich urged online ad companies to beef up efforts to give consumers accurate information about data practices. She publicly endorsed the view that cookies, device identifiers and other information the industry likes to call "anonymous" may actually be personally identifiable.

"We regard data as 'personally identifiable,' and thus warranting privacy protections, when it can be reasonably linked to a particular person, computer, or device," she said last year in a blog post. "In many cases, persistent identifiers such as device identifiers, MAC addresses, static IP addresses, or cookies meet this test."

Her departure comes as the new White House administration is widely expected to pursue a business-friendly agenda. But Rich says she expects the FTC will continue to actively oversee privacy in the coming years.

"The fast-paced growth of technology, plus the fact that data is flowing across the borders, means that privacy looms large for consumers, for regulators, and for companies," she says. "It's going to continue to be a huge issue for the FTC, especially since we are really the leaders on privacy."

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