FTC Chairman Simons: The Man Deciding Facebook’s Fate

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A Q&A with Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons.

“We have this over 100-year-old statute that is our main authority,” said Chairman Simons. “And clearly legislators who approved that were not thinking about data security and privacy issues.”  In the deregulatory era of the Trump administration, Chairman Simons, 60, a Republican lawyer who has jumped between the public and private sectors for more than 30 years, is a rare voice for strengthening the government’s hand. Chairman Simons has urged Congress to expand the FTC’s privacy-enforcement powers and allow it to impose fines more easily, write new rules and hire more experts. He also says the agency should police how all companies and nonprofits — not just technology companies — collect and handle people’s digital data. 

But none of those changes will happen before Chairman Simons must make the most anticipated decision on data privacy in the agency’s history. In the coming weeks, he and the FTC’s four other commissioners are expected to conclude an investigation into whether Facebook violated its promises to protect people’s data. The outcome of the case is seen as a referendum on the government’s ability to rein in tech giants that have amassed incredible wealth and power from collecting and bartering user data.

The Man Deciding Facebook’s Fate