FTC Taps Data Privacy, Security Experts For Top Posts

Amid high-profile scandals over government spying and concerns about the security of individuals’ data, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) appointed experts in privacy and data security to two senior positions this week.

Latanya Sweeney FTC
Latanya Sweeney of Harvard was appointed as Chief Technologist at the FTC. Sweeney is an expert on data privacy. (Image courtesy of Harvard University.)


FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez on Monday announced the appointments of Latanya Sweeney as the agency’s Chief Technologist and Andrea Matwyshyn as a Senior Policy Advisor on privacy and data security issues. The appointments bring expertise in data privacy into the FTC’s senior ranks, as the agency wrestles with the implications of headlong expansion of Internet connected device, sometimes referred to as the “Internet of Things.”

Sweeney is a professor of government and technology at Harvard University and the founder and director of Harvard’s data privacy lab. A Ph.D in computer science with degrees from Harvard and MIT, her research has focused on the de-identification of data, developing privacy technologies, and the protection of health information, according to the FTC. At FTC, she will advise the agency on evolving technology and policy issues.

Dr. Matwyshyn’s background is in the law, and she holds a Ph.D in human development in social policy, with research that focuses on technology and innovation, data security, consumer privacy, and technology entrepreneurship.

She will join the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning as a Senior Policy Advisor in December; she will advise the agency on privacy and data security policy issues.

The two will bolster the FTC’s work on consumer privacy and data security issues.“Technology issues are increasingly central to the FTC’s work, ” FTC Chairwoman Ramirez said in a published statement.

The announcements came a day before an FTC workshop on privacy and the “Internet of Things,” which brought together academic, government and private sector experts to Washington D.C. to talk about the security and privacy implications of IoT technology.

The Commission has taken the point for the U.S. government in addressing problems with IoT devices. In recent months, for example, the FTC has published guidance for consumers and businesses to improve the security and privacy protections of their products. The FTC in September announced a settlement with TRENDNet, the maker of IP-enabled home surveillance cameras that was found to have sold insecure products and misled consumers about the security of the devices.