On March 23, 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) Bureau of Consumer Protection (“Bureau”) announced the formation of the Office of Technology Research and Investigation (“OTRI”), a branch that will expand the agency’s technological capabilities by identifying ways to continue to protect consumers during a time of rapid technical innovation. 

OTRI is a successor to the Bureau’s Mobile Technology Unit (“MTU”), which was a small group of staff members tasked with underscoring consumer protection issues related to mobile technologies and developing tools to protect consumers in mobile commerce by releasing reports on mobile shopping and apps targeting children.  Designed to expand the FTC’s research initiatives beyond mobile devices, OTRI will conduct investigative research on a broad range of technology issues in line with the FTC’s consumer protection missions and will implement research related to, among other things, privacy, data security, connected cars, smart homes, emerging payment methods, and big data, according to an FTC blog post related to the new office. 

The current Chief of MTU, Kristin Cohen, will lead OTRI’s initiatives, and in connection with the rollout of the new office, the Bureau has announced new positions including, for example, a Technology Policy Research Fellowship.  The Bureau’s blog regarding OTRI is available here.