On Monday, June 17, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez named Jessica Rich as Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.  No stranger to the FTC, Rich has served in a variety of commission leadership roles for over a decade.  Rich was the Bureau’s Deputy Director from November 2009 to January 2012.  Since then, she has been the Associate Director in charge of the Division of Financial Practices.

Having also spent 11 years as Assistant and then Associate Director in the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, Rich was praised by then-FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz as “a nationally recognized expert in the fields of privacy, data and identity protection, and emerging technologies.” 

She has handled the development of numerous FTC rules, including the 2000 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule which “requires operators of Web sites and online services that target children under age 13 to obtain verifiable parental consent before they collect, use, or disclose personal information from children.”  Rich testified that, by 2010, the FTC had brought 14 enforcement actions alleging violation of the rule and “collected more than $3.2 million in civil penalties.” 

Rice oversaw “the FTC’s Behavioral Advertising initiative, including development of its Behavioral Advertising Principles and report.”  She also led the FTC’s efforts in obtaining landmark settlements, such as agreements with Google, BJ’s Warehouse, and TJX for bi-annual independent audits for the next 20 years, and enforcing FTC regulations against companies such as Microsoft, Toysmart, Cardsystems, and LexisNexis.

Rich’s presence before congressional committees has focused on consumer privacy issues.  In July 2010, she testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance about the FTC’s concern regarding teenagers’ potential recklessness in disclosing information through digital media and possible FTC regulatory actions to protect their privacy.  In May 2011, she testified before the Senate Subcommittee for Privacy, Technology, and the Law on protecting consumer privacy on new mobile devices.  Most recently, in December 2012, Rich appeared on numerous media outlets to discuss the FTC’s survey of 400 children’s apps that found most failed to gain parental consent before gathering information.

Rich’s appointment has been viewed as a signal that the FTC will likely maintain its focus on crafting and enforcing privacy policies.

John Mavretich*

*John is a Venable summer associate and not admitted to practice law.