Privacy Advocate Named to Lead Consumer Protection Bureau

New Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez this week named long-time privacy advocate Jessica Rich to head the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  Described as a “driving force behind the Bureau’s ongoing consumer privacy issues” by Kelly Drye & Warren, a corporate law firm in DC that’s handled numerous FTC-related cases, the 22-year FTC veteran replaced Acting Director Charles Harwood.

“When she was deputy director of the bureau, she was largely responsible for reinvigorating the agency’s focus on privacy issues. So, yes, I expect that under her leadership, privacy will continue to be priority for the agency,” says Kelly Drye & Warren partner Dana Rosenfeld, a former FTC attorney.

Rich currently serves as Associate Director of the FTC’s Division of Financial Practices, in which she has overseen issues around mobile payment systems and  testified before Congress about mobile privacy issues. As an associate director in the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Indentity Protection, she helped craft the Children’s Online Privacy Protection (COPPA) rules and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. She also pursued privacy-focused enforcement against companies including Microsoft, ChoicePoint, ToySmart, and BJ’s Warehouse.

Direct Marketing Assocation President and CEO Linda Woolley, an advocate for the use of customer data to responsibly market to consumers, expressed delight over Rich’s appointment. “Over the past two decades of service with the Commission, Jessica has proven herself a thoughtful and practical voice on issues of consumer protection,” Woolley said. “DMA has always appreciated her willingness to work collaboratively with the business community in navigating issues of consumer privacy as well as innovation in the kinds of products and services that consumers want.”

Rich served as Deputy Director of the Consumer Protection Bureau under recently departed Director David Vladeck, who brought landmark privacy protection cases against Google and Facebook. Consumer advocates expect Rich to continue Vladeck’s legacy.

“Given her time serving under the former director and her understanding of complex privacy issues, we see her appointment as a continuation of Vladeck’s agenda,” said Gautam Hans, a fellow focusing on privacy issues at the Center for Democracy & Technology. “She also has a strong understanding of the mobile app landscape and the privacy issues facing consumers.”

Rich is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University Law School and began her career at FTC as a staff attorney. During her tenure as Deputy Director of Consumer Protection, she received the Chairman’s Award, the Commission’s highest honor given for meritorious service.

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