President Trump has designated Maureen Ohlhausen as the Federal Trade Commission's acting chairwoman, putting her in charge of a powerful consumer protection agency that in recent years has become a major technology and privacy watchdog.
Ohlhausen, a Republican, had been serving as an FTC commissioner since 2012. She is a noted critic of government regulation, such as the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules, and frequently uses the phrase “regulatory humility” to describe her philosophy on federal policymaking.
“I am deeply honored that President Trump has asked me to serve,” said Ohlhausen in a statement. “I will work to protect all consumers from fraud, deception and unfair practices.”
Trump's selection of Ohlhausen breaks from his habit of appointing Washington outsiders to fill key posts. The FTC, an independent law enforcement agency, took on companies such as Amazon, Apple and Google during the Obama administration, and established important precedents in lawsuits, such as one targeting the Wyndham hotel company. That federal case found that companies can be held liable if they fail to secure their customer data against hacking and allow the information to leak in ways that lead to customer harm.
But in a sign of how she might run the FTC, Ohlhausen said in a speech this week at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation that some agency lawsuits risk imposing undue costs on U.S. businesses by forcing them to jump through unnecessary legal hoops.
Ohlhausen, a believer in free markets, has said there is no need for regulations such as the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules. The regulations, which aim to prohibit the unfair treatment of small Web companies by Internet providers, could be replaced by effective antitrust enforcement, she said in a recent paper.
Ohlhausen will not need to be renominated to serve on the FTC until September 2018.