She was once called by Time magazine, "the woman keeping Sillicon Valley in check." But soon, former Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez may be seen less as a threat and more as an asset to the nation's leading tech companies in her new role as co-lead of Hogan Lovells' antitrust division. She'll also work on issues at the firm's privacy and cybersecurity practice.
Under Ramirez, the FTC grew to become what some dubbed the "Federal Technology Commission." Ramirez was responsible for establishing the Office of Technology Research and Investigation, which, as Omer Tene wrote earlier this year, "propelled the FTC's technical leadership and expertise beyond that of any other regulator in this space, not only in the U.S., but also around the world."
In a brief interview with The Privacy Advisor, as she headed to the airport the morning of the announcement she'd accepted the gig at Hogan Lovells, Ramirez discussed prioritizing the agency's focus on technology.
"It certainly became ever so important during my time at the agency," she said. "During the span I was there, there was no question the impact technology was having on people's lives was increasing dramatically, and it became clear that in order for the agency to make sure that it was protecting consumers ... we had to be focused on privacy, data security and the mobile marketplace.,"" she said.
And having a certain technological expertise is an asset she'll continue to use in her role at Hogan Lovells.
"There's no question that being technically savvy is vital in today's environment," she said, not only as a law enforcer but also in counseling clients.
Ramirez said moving to Hogan was a strategic decision because it will allow her to "continue to address, albeit from a different vantage point, a lot of the complicated issues we were examining at the FTC." That includes how companies can innovate and produce important tech advances, while keeping in mind ways to protect consumers.
"I will be tackling a lot of the same issues," she said, "but working with companies to find solutions to that central challenge."
Ramirez likely won't take long to adjust to life post-regulator; she spent years in private practice before President Barack Obama tapped her to lead the FTC. It was experience she leveraged when she found herself policing companies' practices.
"In my view, it's not necessarily an adversarial relationship," she said of companies and regulators. "For me, the ultimate goal is seeking to achieve solutions to what amount to significant and complicated questions. My hope is that the insight I have as a result of my time heading the FTC will help companies in that process."
Asked what advice she'd offer the next, as yet unnamed, commissioner of the FTC, Ramirez declined to comment, but she did offer that she's not concerned about the future of the agency, whoever next leads it.
"It can be a challenge for any agency to stay on top of emerging trends, especially at the pace change is occurring today," she said, adding one thing clear to her is that the FTC is a nimble agency comprised of "a very talented staff ... It's truly a 21st century agency, and I think it is well positioned to tackle these issues."
If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.