Under outgoing FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, the agency undertook a years-long investigation of Google’s search practices and ultimately decided there was not enough evidence of antitrust violations.
As concern grew that cellphones and apps were sweeping up information about users, the FTC charged Facebook and Google with privacy violations and forced the companies to agree to stricter privacy practices.
“I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners and the able FTC staff to continue the agency’s proud history of promoting vigorous competition and protecting consumers,” Ramirez said in a statement issued by the FTC.
Privacy will continue to be a hot-button issue at the agency. On Thursday, Senate lawmakers introduced a Do Not Track bill that would force companies to stop collecting information about consumers who choose to opt out of the practice.
The FTC is also expected to be a key battleground for the high-tech industry, where companies have griped about rivals sweeping up patents to unfairly impede competition. Microsoft, Apple, Nokia and Google are battling in various courts and regulatory agencies around the world over intellectual-property rights.
Antitrust experts say Ramirez is particularly suited to tackle this growing trend of patent disputes by tech companies.
“The FTC can turn even more attention to other issues at the crossroads of intellectual property and antitrust,” said Bert Foer, head of the American Antitrust Institute. “This is where Edith Ramirez has made a very positive mark so far as a commissioner.”
As a sitting commissioner, Ramirez can be promoted to chairman without being confirmed by Congress.
She was a strong supporter of Obama in his 2008 election campaign. Another of Obama’s Harvard classmates and friends, Julius Genachowski, is chairman of Federal Communications Commission. He was a key fundraiser and campaign advisor to Obama.
“Over the past few years, 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,” said a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the nomination has not yet been made official.