After six years as a Commissioner for the Federal Trade Commission, Julie Brill announced her plans to leave federal service and join a firm in Washington, D.C. as of April 1.
Brill was a fierce advocate for consumer privacy during her time with the Commission. In January she spoke at the AdExchanger Industry Preview, urging attendees "to explore the creation of innovative and usable tools to address consumer concerns about privacy," and "[n]ot to find ways to work-around consumer choice, but to provide consumers with something they clearly want: to see advertising that respects their privacy and that they can trust."
Last October she cautioned advertisers at the National Advertising Division's annual conference that rapid technological advancement and "the swirling cyber-atmosphere" did not change the FTC's mission or eliminate their obligation to protect consumer privacy.
"Yes, the explosion of social media, connected devices, mobile apps, data, and methods of data analyses have wrought benefits and threats to consumers unimaginable even three years ago," she said in prepared remarks. "But the principles of truth in advertising, consumer control over their data, and privacy protection behind which the FTC has always stood can and do still apply. In these times, hanging on to what has served us so well in the past is perhaps the best way to ensure we can adequately protect consumers in what will certainly continue to be a challenging future."
Prior to joining the FTC, Brill served as Senior Deputy Attorney General and Chief of Consumer Protection and Antitrust for the North Carolina Department of Justice and spent 20 years as an Assistant Attorney General for Consumer Protection and Antitrust for the State of Vermont. Brill was appointed by President Barack Obama and sworn in as a Commissioner on April 6, 2010.
"Commissioner Brill has been an unwavering advocate for consumers and competition during her six-year tenure at the Federal Trade Commission," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. "Commissioner Brill's expertise in consumer protection, privacy, and antitrust has been an asset to the agency, and we are sorry to see her leave. We wish her well on her next steps."
During her time on the Commission, Brill also took on the data broker industry, voicing her support for the Reclaim Your Name movement, a program that would allow consumers access to their information stored by data brokers and provide them the ability to control how such data is shared and the power to make corrections.
Data brokers are "taking advantage of us without our permission," she said, suggesting that Congress should legislate regulation of the industry that would require data brokers to "provide notice, access, and correction rights to consumers scaled to the sensitivity and use of the data at issue."
She also pushed for the enactment of a Do Not Track mechanism for online behavioral advertising.
Why it matters: Brill's departure—six months prior to the end of her term—will leave the Commission with just three members in an election year. Given the short time frame, it seems unlikely that President Obama will name replacements for either Brill or Joshua Wright (who departed the agency last year) prior to leaving office.