The international group of data protection commissioners today admitted the U.S. Federal Trade Commission into membership.

Meeting at the 32nd International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Jerusalem, the commissioners determined that the FTC had the requisite authority and independence to qualify for membership.

The decision has been a long time coming.  The U.S. has long sought to be recognized as a member of the data protection group.  Last year, the U.S. application was rejected at the international conference in Madrid.

A variety of factors may have contributed to the change, including new FTC enforcement actions brought under the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor agreement, expanded collaboration between European data protection commissioners and FTC officials on enforcement matters, the FTC’s ongoing inquiry into the future of privacy, and sustained engagement by FTC Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection David Vladeck.

The decision reflects the irony that while independence is an important criterion for membership, that independence means that the United States is now represented in international privacy discussions by the FTC, rather than the Departments of Commerce or State, which typically represent the country in international fora.