For a brief moment in the spring, Maureen Ohlhausen stood as the sole remaining commissioner – and acting chairwoman, to boot – at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), known for its aggressive pursuit of organizations for violating privacy and not security data.
Ohlhausen, who has spent the better part of two decades at the commission, has held the top spot since shortly after Donald Trump took office and former Chairwoman Edith Ramirez stepped down. She had lobbied to remove the “acting” from her title, but is now returned to her previous role as commissioner as Joseph J. Simons, who was sworn in May 1, takes the FTC helm and is awaiting confirmation as a judge in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
“I congratulate Joe, as well as [Commissioners] Noah [Joshua Phillips], Rebecca [Kelly Slaughter], and Rohit [Chopra] on their Senate confirmations. I look forward to welcoming them to the Commission,” she said.
Under Ohlhausen’s leadership, the FTC continued to pressure organizations to improve their security posture and protect consumers from breaches and privacy incursions. More recently it launched a probe into Facebook after it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica used the private information of millions of users without their permission. The commission is investigating whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree, which required it to obtain user consent when privacy settings were changed or risk paying $40,000 per day for each violation.
Before originally joining the FTC in 1997, Ohlhausen punched the clock at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit where she was first a law clerk for Judge David B. Sentelle, then a staff attorney – she also clerked for Judge Robert Yock in the Federal Claims Court where she has been nominated to the bench. She began her work at the FTC in the General Counsel’s office then as an attorney advisor for the former Commissioner Orson Swindle and director of the Office of Policy Planning, leading the FTC’s Internet Access Task Force.
For a brief stint that bifurcated her tenure at the FTC, Ohlhausen was a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, taking on privacy, data protection, cybersecurity and other FTC issues.