President Barack Obama intends to name Federal Trade Commissioner Edith Ramirez to head the agency.
The FTC confirmed that intention late Thursday. She will take over March 4.
Current chair Jon Leibowitz planned to exit two weeks ago, but decided to stay on since the president had not named a replacement. Since Ramirez is a sitting commissioner, she does not need a Senate vote and can assume her job much more swiftly than a nominee who needs a confirmation hearing and vote.
But by naming a sitting commissioner, that will leave a vacancy the White House will need to fill, and which will need a Senate confirmation hearing and vote. In the meantime, the commission will comprise four commissioners, two Democrats and two Republicans.
"I am deeply honored at the opportunity to lead the Federal Trade Commission," Ramirez said in a statement. "I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners and the able FTC staff to continue the agency's proud history of promoting vigorous competition and protecting consumers. I also want to thank Chairman Leibowitz for his strong leadership. I welcome the opportunity to build on his legacy of active enforcement of our antitrust and consumer protection laws."
Ramirez was a Harvard Law School colleague of the President's, as was current FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, and reportedly handled Latino outreach for his 2008 race. Ramirez has been a commissioner since April 2010.
Leibowitz has emphasized self-regulation, but CDD has argued that the government needs to do more to insure online privacy and security, particularly for kids.
Ramirez is on the record saying that online tracking by ISPs, among others, raises "serious" privacy concerns that the FTC needs to look into.
Privacy advocates appeared pleased by the choice, and what it might signal for more government action on that and other fronts.
"Edith Ramirez cares deeply about consumers and the issues that affect their everyday lives," said Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy. "She is always willing to listen and works hard to find out the facts before making a decision. We have found her to display unique insights on issues critical to consumer welfare and competition. Under her leadership, we expect the FTC to blaze new ground on privacy -- especially involving mobile devices, digital data brokers and Do Not Track."
"Edith Ramirez is a great choice for FTC Chair," said Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn. "She has been a strong voice for patent reform, and she understands that as technology becomes an ever greater part of our lives, competition and consumer protection policy must adapt. We look forward to working with her to promote innovation, robust competition and consumer protection in an ever-changing digital economy."
"Privacy advocate Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) praised the new pick, but not before giving a big hand to the exiting chairman. "Jon Leibowitz is one of the all-time greatest chairmen in the history of the Federal Trade Commission," said Markey. "He will leave behind an incredible legacy of achievement, particularly in the area of protecting children's privacy on the Internet.
"President Obama today ensured that consumers will continue to have a strong voice and effective advocate by selecting Edith Ramirez to Chair the Federal Trade Commission. Commissioner Ramirez brings both deep knowledge and dedication to protecting consumers. I look forward to working with her in the future."