Finally a smart decision from the FTC

Well this one caught me right off guard, especially coming from the FTC but is seems that the agency has made a rather interesting decision in its choice of their Chief Technologist.

In a press release this morning Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz has named Ed Felten, Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs and founding director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, as the new FTC Chief Technologist.

Now anyone who has followed security blogs for any time the name Ed Felten is extremely well known and most recently was at the center of the e-voting machine controversy that swirled around Diebold and other companies in the business.

As John Paczkowski at Digital Daily wrote about the news:

And then, of course, there were Felten’s various investigations intoelectronic voting machines, the most notorious being the one that revealed Diebolds’ machines could be opened with a standard office furniture key. “The access panel door on a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine — the door that protects the memory card that stores the votes, and is the main barrier to the injection of a virus — can be opened with a standard key that is widely available on the Internet,” Felten wrote at the time. “The exact same key is used widely in office furniture, electronic equipment, jukeboxes, and hotel minibars.”

Thank God for Felten, right?

And thank God the FTC has seen fit to hire him. There’s a lot of good he can do there. As Felten described it, “My main job will be to advise the FTC leadership on technology policy issues. My goals are use my technical expertise and knowledge of the tech world to help the FTC make the best decisions on tech topics, and to contribute to building up the agency’s technical capabilities.”

This has to be one of the smartest moves made by the FTC in some time and I would be willing to bet that there are some nervous people in the halls of some of the largest tech companies in the US right now.

Here is the complete press release from the FTC:

FTC Names Edward W. Felten as Agency’s Chief Technologist; Eileen Harrington as Executive Director

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz today announced the appointment of Edward W. Felten as the agency’s first Chief Technologist. In his new position, Dr. Felten will advise the agency on evolving technology and policy issues.

Dr. Felten is a professor of computer science and public affairs and founding director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University. He has served as a consultant to federal agencies, including the FTC, and departments of Justice and Defense, and has testified before Congress on a range of technology, computer security, and privacy issues. He is a fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery and recipient of the Scientific American 50 Award. Felten holds a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering from the University of Washington.

Dr. Felten’s research has focused on areas including computer security and privacy, especially relating to consumer products; technology law and policy; Internet software; intellectual property policy; and using technology to improve government.

“Ed is extraordinarily respected in the technology community, and his background and knowledge make him an outstanding choice to serve as the agency’s first Chief Technologist,” Leibowitz said. “He’s going to add unparalleled expertise on high-technology markets and computer security. And he also will provide invaluable input into the recommendations we’ll be making soon for online privacy, as well as the enforcement actions we’ll soon bring to protect consumer privacy. We’re thrilled to have him on board.”

Dr. Felten currently is a part-time consultant for the FTC. He will start full time as Chief Technologist in January.

Chairman Leibowitz also announced that Eileen Harrington has been named the agency’s Executive Director. Harrington comes to the FTC from a 15-month stint as Chief Operating Officer at the U.S. Small Business Administration. Previously, she served for 25 years at the FTC, starting as a staff attorney and assuming a variety of senior management positions in the Bureau of Consumer Protection, including Associate Director for Marketing Practices, Deputy Director, and Acting Director. Harrington has a long list of accomplishments from her tenure at the FTC. Perhaps most notably, she received the prestigious Service to America Medal for leading the team that created the National Do Not Call Registry.

“This is a very happy homecoming,” said Leibowitz. “Eileen has made an invaluable contribution to the FTC in the past, and her strong management skills, enthusiasm, and creativity will once again be put to use for the betterment of the agency and for American consumers. We are delighted to have her back.”

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

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