On February 1, 2013, the Federal Trade Commission announced that Chairman Jon Leibowitz will step down from his role on February 15, 2013. Leibowitz, who has been with the Commission since 2004 and was appointed Chairman in 2009, leaves the agency with a much more aggressive privacy agenda than the one he inherited, having helped to shape “groundbreaking work on consumer protection and competition issues.” During what may be his final press conference as Chairman, Leibowitz announced a new staff report on mobile app privacy disclosures and an enforcement action against the operator of a social networking app stemming from allegedly deceptive information collection practices that violated Section 5 of the FTC Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Leibowitz has thus far declined to elaborate on his future plans, but he leaves large shoes for President Obama to fill in naming his replacement. The next Chairman will be responsible for appointing a new Director for the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection following the December 2012 departure of former Director David C. Vladeck, who returned to a faculty position at Georgetown University Law Center.
There has been speculation that possible candidates for Leibowitz’s position include FTC Commissioners Julie Brill and Edith Ramirez, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Economics Howard Shelanski, and Philip Weiser, Dean of the University of Colorado Law School.