Senate Confirms FTC’s Leibowitz for a Second Term

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz, who’s crusaded for online privacy, has been confirmed for a second term as a commissioner. In a vote this week, the Senate gave him another seven years, and also appointed Maureen K. Ohlhausen to a commissioner seat.

Both have already begun their new terms – Leibowitz in 2010, Ohlhausen in 2011 – but thanks to the slow gears of regulatory appointments the voting only just happened.

Leibowitz was first appointed to the Federal Trade Commission in 2004, and was tapped by President Obama to lead the agency as chairman five years after that. He is known for a focus on online consumer protection, including everything from fraudulent mobile content schemes to misleading Acai berry health claims.

But his biggest impact on digital ads has been around behavioral targeting practices. In 2010 Leibowitz unveiled the FTC’s privacy framework, which proposed for the first time a do-not-track mechanism for digital ad tracking. It took well over a year, but in February it confirmed support for a DNT mechanism and called for basic legislation to put it into effect.

But Leibowitz has also offered praise for the industry’s expanding self-regulatory effort. He said the the Digital Advertising Alliance, which is working with the FTC to spearhead that effort, “really are stepping up to our challenge to protect privacy.”

Meanwhile, newly confirmed commissioner Ohlhausen has since 2009 been a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, where she has focused on privacy, data protection, and cyber-security. Earlier she served 11 years at the FTC, most recently as director of the Office of Policy Planning from 2004 to 2008, leading the agency’s Internet Access Task Force.

The FTC has five commissioners nominated by the President, one of whom serves as chairman. Each serve staggered seven-year terms.