New Hire At FCC May Indicate More Protection For Consumers’ Privacy Down The Road

fcc_sealGovernment agencies are basically giant businesses: they hire new people all the time, and it’s very rarely news when they do. Occasionally, though, the match of person and position may hint at big news for consumers, as one recent hire at the FCC just did.

The new guy is named Jonathan Mayer, as the Washington Post reports, and his new gig might signal a big shift at the FCC toward protecting consumer privacy.

Mayer’s new job is to be the top technology guy working on investigations into consumer protection issues relating to security and privacy, the WaPo explains. Perhaps it doesn’t sound like that should be a big deal, but until now issues like data breaches, hacks, and other privacy issues have more-or-less been handled entirely by a different agency, the FTC.

But as everything commercial moves increasingly to an all-digital space, the line between the FTC’s and FCC’s jurisdiction has gotten a little blurry in the middle. Hiring Mayer may signal that the FCC intends to step it up in the consumer privacy arena, at least as it relates to phone, TV, or internet service. And frankly, they probably have to: as a side-effect of this year’s net neutrality rule, internet services are now classified as common carriers… which are exempt from certain regulation by the FTC.

Mayer is not the sort one typically expects to find in a regulatory leadership position. For one thing, he’s still in his late twenties, so he doesn’t have the decades of experience one usually hears about.

In the years he has been working, though, he’s been busy in a very high-profile way. He spotted the privacy violation in Safari browsers that led to Google having to cough up $22.5 million to the FTC in 2012. He also helped develop the do not track standard for web browsers (that the FCC recently declined to enforce).

Most recently, earlier this year he found and announced that the tracking supercookie on Verizon phones could be accessed by third parties, despite what Verizon said. The FCC has since started an investigation into those trackers.

With this hire, the FCC could soon get tougher on privacy and security [Washington Post]

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